6 Land Trusts Protecting Important Areas Across America

Protecting natural environmental areas is essential, not only because they're aesthetically pleasing, but because they play a critical role in our overall ecosystem. Many land trusts have formed to work with farmers, ranchers, and community members to ensure that parks, wildlife refuges, forests, and other unique spaces are preserved. In no particular order, this list highlights several nonprofits fighting for vital outdoor areas in the US.

At #1, we have Sonoma Land Trust. This nonprofit fights to conserve scenic, natural, agricultural, and public spaces in Northern California for future generations. It does this by acquiring land and conservation easements, restoring ecosystems, and protecting wildlife and recreation areas.

Sonoma Land Trust offers a wide variety of activities, education programs, and outreach to engage the public. One example is Bay Camp, a bilingual summer day camp on San Pablo Bay for children ages seven to twelve. It connects kids to the tidal marsh ecosystem by allowing them to explore the environment and learn about the ecology of this vital habitat.

Coming in at #2 is Solano Land Trust. Its mission is to protect open spaces to ensure a healthy environment, keep ranching and farming families on their properties, and inspire a love of the land. To achieve this goal, the nonprofit works in close partnership with local, state, and federal agencies, cattle and sheep grazers, other organizations, volunteers, and individual donors.

The nonprofit's anchor properties include Jepson Prairie, the King-Swett Ranches, and Lynch Canyon, all in Solano County. It offers several activities throughout the year, such as free guided hikes, volunteer opportunities, an annual kite festival, trail runs, art auctions, and more.

The #3 entry is ACRES Land Trust, working to protect natural areas in northeast Indiana, northwest Ohio, and southern Michigan. These lands are made up of forests, wetlands, native grasslands, geologic formations, and habitats for plants and animals, including rare, threatened, and endangered species.

The nonprofit also fights to conserve working land such as farming areas, managed forests, and property for other uses. The majority of ACRES' nature preserves are open dawn to dusk, free for exploration, hiking, photography, birding, field trips, family outings, group-building, inspiration, and adventure.

For #4, we present Athens Land Trust in Georgia. It is one of the few organizations in the country that is both a conservation and community land trust. The nonprofit aims to preserve public spaces, support local agricultural projects, and create sustainable housing development that addresses environmental, economic, and community needs.

ALT has three youth development programs, all of which are paid and offer training and education to local high schoolers. One of them, the Young Urban Builders initiative, allows students to work on community-identified construction and rehabilitation projects in the West Broad neighborhood.

Coming in at #5, we have Marin Agricultural Land Trust. The first farmland trust in the nation, MALT was founded in 1980 by Ellen Straus, Phyllis Faber, and a broad coalition of ranchers, environmentalists, and community leaders. Their aim was to protect the future of farming in California's Marin County from mounting pressures for development.

Using a tool called an agricultural conservation easement, MALT purchases development rights from landowners, extinguishing them in perpetuity. In preserving farmland, the nonprofit strives to protect the local foodshed, maintain Marin's agricultural character, and safeguard habitats for native plants and wildlife.

Last but not least, at #6, we present The Land Trust for Tennessee, a conservation organization working statewide to protect outdoor areas important to residents. The nonprofit works in partnership with landowners and communities to defend and expand public parks, wildlife refuges, forests, and more.

The Land Trust hosts hands-on programming and events to educate community members about the importance of conservation and how they can take action. Its goal is to inspire future generations to become good stewards of the land. Glen Leven is a historic farm owned by the nonprofit located not far from the center of Downtown Nashville.