9 Land Trusts Conserving Nature And Building Community

The encroachment of commercial or residential development can cause the destruction of vital ecosystems, and the loss of valued sites for recreation and cultural appreciation. Land trusts act as safeguards against this threat, holding unspoiled property under agreements that preserve it for the future. The following groups, reviewed in no particular order, work to protect the landscapes that both humans and wild species treasure.

First up, #1, is the Kingston Land Trust, working to strengthen its community by preserving equitable access to property and natural spaces. The group protects environmentally and socially significant areas, creating ecological buffers and recreational zones like the Kingston Greenline trail system. Many of the Trust's projects engage locals in stewardship, such as the Land Matching Portal that connects residents with underutilized properties for urban agriculture.

With its Land in Black Hands Fund, KLT promotes ownership and prosperity among people of color, and the organization partners with local black-led groups on projects like the preservation of a historic African Burial Ground. Its Comida y tierra immersion project promotes Spanish fluency, and broader awareness of land issues, through community conversations at Hispanic restaurants in the area.

Next in the order at #2 is Deschutes Land Trust, which cooperates with landowners to conserve outdoor areas in Central Oregon for wildlife, scenic views, and community use. Its conservation easements leave natural acreage in private hands, but protect it with agreements that prevent commercial exploitation. The organization also receives direct donations of land for the creation of ecological preserves.

A number of the Land Trust's Community Preserves are open for environmentally responsible public use, such as scenic mountain view hikes at Indian Ford Meadow, or salmon walks in the Metolius River area. The group organizes guided events from geology excursions to group landscape painting sessions, as well as many kid-friendly outings. It recruits volunteers for habitat restoration projects of all kinds, including adapting local ecosystems to withstand the effects of climate change.

Entry #3 is the Land Trust of Virginia, a nonprofit partnering with private owners to create long-term agreements for the preservation of working farmland or wild areas. Along with natural resources, this group conserves properties contributing to the state's historic character. Examples include the Crooked Run Orchard, owned by the same family for more than two hundred years, or the long-standing landmarks of Meredyth Farm .

LTV's Blue Ridge Conservation Initiative works to identify areas of critical environmental value within Virginia's iconic mountain range, and to encourage the owners of these lands to preserve them for future generations. The organization honors contributors to its mission of stewardship with awards and acclaim at its annual Garden Party events, and shares informational resources on conservation. LTV is accredited by the Land Trust Alliance for meeting or exceeding the industry's best practices.

Next up is #4, the Whidbey Camano Land Trust, which safeguards natural habitats and resources on two scenic islands in Washington's Puget Sound. This organization arranges easements with private landholders to place ecologically and culturally important spaces off-limits to commercial development, including many acres of vital shoreline, wetlands, and agricultural territory. Other land is purchased outright by the Trust, and maintained through fees from public use.

The Land Trust organizes volunteer teams for stewardship efforts like trail maintenance, clearing invasive species, and planting native vegetation. It also offers nature education opportunities for members, as well as promoting community and raising funds through events like its annual Sea, Trees, & Pie Bike Ride. The group's HabitChat Blog presents articles discussing organizational news, and offering information about local wildlife.

Our #5 is the Interior Alaska Land Trust, a private non-profit organization that manages properties for conservation purposes throughout the Fairbanks North Star Borough. The lands under stewardship include historic sites like the Pontti Homestead as well as scenic habitats like the Peat Ponds. The group works to create natural corridors for recreational use and preservation of biodiversity, such as the greenbelt linking several important sites in the Goldstream Valley.

Some of Interior Alaska Land Trust's Project Areas

Project Description
Cripple Creek Restoration Project Restoring the rerouted Cripple Creek to its original path
Goldstream Valley Greenbelt Project Aims to expand the Goldstream Public Use Area and connect portions not currently connected
Blueberry Preserves 111 acres of wetlands flanking Ballaine Road on the north side of Goldstream Creek
Peat Ponds 25 acres of shallow and deep wetlands providing prime bird habitat in the summer months and great skating in the winter
Lower Goldstream 20 acres of old-growth white spruce forest under easement
Chena Hot Springs Road 340 acres of land under easement, donated by Dr. Edwin Lindig in his will
Chena Flats Greenbelt Project Over 500 acres of conserved undeveloped land at the base of Chena Ridge

In addition to conserving natural areas for the future, the group works to repair past environmental damage, with projects like its restoration of the Cripple Creek watershed. It also creates improvements to further community enjoyment of the landscape, such as bird watching platforms and snowshoeing trails, and conducts educational outreach to engage young people's enthusiasm for conservation.

At #6 we have Shirley Heinze Land Trust, working since 1981 to preserve and restore natural areas in northwestern Indiana. Named in memory of a local environmentalist who advocated for conservation of the Indiana Dunes, this organization manages nature preserves that include rare and threatened ecosystems like dune-and-swale landscapes or black-soil prairie.

The Heinze Trust's mission includes public outreach to build interest in Indiana's ecology, with efforts like the Bringing Nature Home program, which encourages local gardeners to nurture native plant varieties and clear away invasive species. This initiative shares educational resources with the public, and offers awards to participants whose gardens serve as outstanding showcases of the region's vegetation. The Heinze Trust recruits volunteers to care for its preserves, with projects from trash pickup to habitat restoration.

#7 in the rundown is the Land Trust of North Alabama, which leads collaborative efforts to conserve the region's scenic, historical, and ecological resources. Begun in the 1980s with the creation of the preserve at Monte Sano Mountain, this organization has established over seven thousand acres of protected lands, maintaining numerous trails and waterways for outdoor enjoyment. The Trust also provides spaces for community gatherings, like its picturesque outdoor concert venue at Three Caves.

Through environmental education programs like the Tuesdays on the Trail biodiversity hikes, the Land Trust seeks to inspire new generations to care for the natural world. The group also shares resources for family recreation, and its blog offers information about local ecology, and updates on the Trust's conservation work. Volunteer opportunities let community members contribute to the organization's mission by tending to natural areas, gathering biological data, or assisting with programming.

Coming in at #8 is the American Chestnut Land Trust. This group is dedicated to safeguarding, maintaining, and sharing natural spaces in the Parkers Creek and Governor's Run watersheds of southern Maryland. ACLT permanently protects land through purchase, easements, and leases, and helps inform property owners about their preservation options. At its Double Oak Farm, the Trust uses environmentally friendly methods to grow crops for donation to a local food pantry.

ACLT helps visitors connect with nature, providing more than twenty miles of free hiking trails, as well as activities like guided canoe trips. Guests can tour its farm to learn about sustainable agriculture practices, and its EDGE garden demonstrates a variety of natural and traditional cultivation techniques. ACLT also offers Master Naturalist courses in citizen science, restores degraded habitats, and organizes events to engage the public about conservation.

We'll end with #9, the Greater Worcester Land Trust, a small nonprofit committed to preserving open spaces within New England's second most populous urban region. The group maintains protected woodlands like the Four-Town Greenway, offering city dwellers a way to encounter wild habitats, and manages several public parks throughout the metropolitan area. GWLT also safeguards local heritage sites like the historic Donker Farm.

GWLT hosts events to build public interest in the environment, such as the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, or the guided Hike Series through its properties. Many of its offerings, like the Arts & Agricultural Festival, let guests experience the organization's working farm. The Land Trust also shares a range of informational resources, including an online guide to local trails, and its WildWorcester initiative gets young people involved in conservation advocacy.