With the United States losing almost two million acres of farms, forests and open spaces each year to land development, the time to save our natural heritage is now.
The quality of our lives is greatly impacted by the quality of our natural environments and the plants and animals that need them to survive. Thankfully land trusts work to protect and preserve our country's natural heritage for generations to come.
What are Land Trusts?
A land trust is a nonprofit organization that actively works to conserve land by undertaking or assisting in land acquisitions. As a nonprofit, land trusts depend on individuals, businesses and other community organizations to donate funds in order to purchase lands that need protection. Land trusts will also accept land donations, bequests and conservation easements - legal agreements between a landowner and a land trust that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values.
Land trusts are closely connected to the communities in which they work. As a charitable organization that relies on donors for funds and donations of land, land trusts are able to benefit those who give. Donations of money, land and conservation easements or by selling property at below market value - or as a "bargain sale" - allow the donor a number of tax benefits. The amount and type of benefit depends on what was given and in what amount, among other factors. Consulting a financial adviser or an attorney will help those interested in donating understand these benefits. Of course the best benefit - the saving of our natural heritage - is shared by all. Many - though not all - of the areas saved are open to the public as nature preserves or places of recreation.
Indiana Land Trusts
The following link lists land trusts operating in Indiana: Indiana Land Protection Alliance (ILPA)
Contact information, including websites if applicable, is included if you are interested in donating or volunteering.
What are RC&Ds?
RC&D stands for Resource Conservation and Development. RC&Ds are quite different than land trusts, but some do act as a land trust. RC&Ds are led by a local council of elected volunteers. This council will work with local governments to plan and carry out resource conservation and community development projects that will improve their town and make it a better place to live. These projects are geared to help the community become more sustainable by utilizing good land management practices and conserving natural resources.
February 20, 2013