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Land trust glossary


In the United States, a conservation easement is an easement – a transfer of usage right – which creates a legally enforceable land preservation agreement between a landowner and a municipality or a qualified land protection organizations (often called a "land trust"), for the purposes of conservation. It restricts real estate development, commercial and industrial uses, and certain other activities on a property to a mutually agreed upon level.

The decision to place a conservation easement on a property is strictly a voluntary one where the easement is sold or donated. The restrictions once set in place, "run with the land" and are binding on all future landowners (in other words, the restrictions are perpetual). The restrictions are spelled out in a legal document that is  recorded in the local land records and the easement becomes a part of the chain of title for the property.

Land Management Plan
Management Plans are developed to guide and assist landholders to actively manage their land and its associated resources. A plan documents, in plain English, the current status and productivity, the desired future condition and the management practices recommended to achieve those conditions.

The plan records landholders' objectives, an inventory of resources, economic and social conditions, and the management decisions made by landholders and resource professionals to achieve the objectives. It also guides the landholder as to which management activities are to be completed each year.

A plan is a working document, and should be amended as necessary, by the landholder and/or the preparing resource professional, to take into account changing environmental, social and economic conditions. Plans will vary in length and detail depending on the diversity of natural resource needs and situations. The following outline is provided to facilitate the preparation of a management plan.

Monitoring refers to repeated systematic observations and evaluation is relating that information to the objectives of a management plan (changes in condition and progress towards meeting management objectives). Monitoring and evaluation provide the documentation of the condition of a managed area and provide a means for reporting changes in vegetation trends. Through the process of monitoring and evaluation, we can also measure progress towards or success at meeting a management objective.

Land Trust Standards and Practices
The Land Trust Standards and Practices are guidelines for the responsible operation of a land trust, which is run legally, ethically, and in the public interest and conducts a sound program of land transactions and stewardship.

The Land Trust Alliance originally developed the standards in 1989 at the urging of land trusts, who believe a strong land trust community depends on the credibility and effectiveness of all its members. They have been revised in 2004.


The newly formed Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an Independent Program of the Land Trust Alliance, will provide independent verification of the 37 indicator practices from Land Trust Standards and Practices that show a land trust's ability to operate in an ethical, legal and technically sound manner and ensure the long-term protection of land in the public interest. Go to

A land steward is a volunteer for the organization whose specific role includes monitoring the condition of their assigned parcel. A steward would alert the board of any positive or negative change in the condition or use of the land. The board would then approve any steps taken to improve or continue conditions.

Any person willing to help, without compensation. A volunteer need not be a dues-paying member of the organization.

501 (c) (3)
Section 501 (c) (3) is a tax law provision granting exemption from the federal income tax to non-profit organizations. This exemption does not cover federal taxes such as employment taxes.

501 (c) (3) exemptions apply to corporations, and any community chest, fund, or foundation, organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes, or to foster nationals or international amateur sports competition, or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals.

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