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What is a Land Conservancy?

Saving the Land

A land conservancy, or land trust, is a nonprofit organization that protects and restores land. The first land trust in the United States was created in Massachusetts in 1891. Almost century later, seeing a need to protect farmland, wildlife habitat, and green space from sprawling development, the land trust movement took off in Wisconsin. Today there are over 40 land trusts operating across Wisconsin, from the heart of urban centers to the vast northwoods. You can learn more by visiting Gathering Waters, Wisconsin’s statewide alliance for land trusts.

How Do We Do It?

Land trusts primarily protect land in two ways. First, land trusts can own properties outright, often as public nature preserves. Driftless Area Land Conservancy owns four Ambassador Properties, where we work to restore and manage native habitat while also welcoming visitors to explore the beauty of these special places. Learn more and plan a visit here.

Second, land trusts create, steward, and uphold conservation easements. A conservation easement is a voluntary, permanent legal agreement between a land trust and a private landowner that limits certain actions, such as development and subdivision. This way, the land remains in private ownership, but is guaranteed to forever retain important aspects such as wildlife habitat, farmland, or open space. Learn more about conservation easements here.

Partners in Conservation

Land trusts often partner with other nonprofit conservation groups, local governments, and state or federal agencies to help achieve conservation priorities. Protecting endangered species, providing clean water, capturing carbon, improving access to nature—all of these important projects might involve your local land trust!

Learn more about the work of land trusts across the United States by visiting the Land Trust Alliance.

GWLandTrust Map.PNG

You can find land trusts throughout Wisconsin with this map from Gathering Waters, Wisconsin's alliance for land trusts (click on the image above to access the map). To find land trusts across the country, visit the Land Trust Alliance.

What Land Trusts Are Not

  • We are not a part of local, state, or federal government agencies, although we often partner with these groups on projects.

  • We are not entities that have the power of eminent domain. All our conservation projects are initiated by landowners based on their wishes.

  • We are not a way for landowners to avoid taxes. Land that remains in private ownership is subject to property taxes even if it has a conservation easement.

Still have questions? We'd love to hear them! Contact us today.

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