Conserving something means protecting it and saving it from being damaged. Protecting the land is known as land conservation. Land conservation is done to preserve land, either keeping it as it is or working to return it to its natural state. Conserving land is important for both the immediate and long-term health and survival of Earth. Landowners who want to make sure that their land is used in ways they approve of in the future can use legal agreements to conserve their land.
Conserving land has many important benefits. To begin with, working to protect the land also protects the water in lakes, ponds, rivers, and wetlands. These are crucial for maintaining healthy natural habitats that support plants and wildlife, and they also provide clean water for humans. Protecting the land also ensures that there are green spaces like parks and playgrounds for people to enjoy. Having these natural spaces in urban areas helps create a positive sense of community and gives residents places where they can enjoy outdoor activities. Property values increase with the presence of green spaces in urban areas, and these areas also help stimulate commercial growth as businesses choose to locate nearby.
Tourism is tied directly to outdoor recreation, which brings important revenue into local communities. Large park areas bring visitors who spend money on food, lodging, and other items. Protecting farms and forests also supports local economies, as each industry contributes millions of dollars to the economy annually. Farms and forests also provide products that local residents need, such as food, paper, and wood.
The most popular way that people protect their own land from development is with a conservation easement. This legal agreement is between the person who owns the land and the government or a land trust, and it limits how the land can be used to preserve its value. With a conservation easement, the landowner can continue to use the land, donate it, pass it on to family, or sell it. The conservation easement stays with the land, not the landowner.
Another option is a fee simple conveyance, which involves giving up all rights to the land, either by selling it or donating it. This type of transaction also means that the landowner gives up their responsibilities to maintain the land and pay taxes on it. A landowner who does this and who wants to ensure proper management of the land would usually choose to transfer the property to a land trust or another business entity that is likely to maintain proper stewardship of the land. The land trust may go on to grant conservation easements on the property to other organizations.
Trade lands are gifts of land that isn't good for conservation to a land trust. A landowner can get a tax benefit from donating a home or commercial lot, and the land trust can then sell the property and use the money to further its goals.
A bargain sale of land is another option, involving selling property to a land trust for less than it's worth. The land trust gets the property, and the seller gets the selling price plus a tax deduction for the difference in value.
Land trusts are entities that buy land or accept donated land with the purpose of protecting the land. Natural habitats, scenic landscapes, historical areas, watershed areas, and working landscapes such as farms are examples of land that land trusts would protect. If a landowner conveys land using a conservation easement, the land trust would have to enforce all restrictions outlined in the legal agreement. Landowners often choose to work with a land trust because people working in the land trust business are skilled, connected with the local community, and familiar with the land. Land trusts also have a nonprofit tax status, meaning that they don't have to pay federal, state, and possibly local income taxes. Land trusts are also often flexible and creative in land maintenance, which benefits the land.