Millions of Acres
Land Trusts Continue to Grow
The nation’s local and regional, private, nonprofit land trusts have conserved more than 6.4 million acres of open space as of Dec. 31, 2000, a 241 percent increase over the acreage protected as of 1990, creating an “everlasting legacy on the land,” according to Land Trust Alliance’s President Jean Hocker.
The National Land Trust Census identified several milestones:
* Local and regional land trusts have protected 6,479,672 acres of open space as of Dec. 31, 2000, an area twice the size of Connecticut. That is a 241 percent increase over the 1.9 million acres protected as of 1990. Although the National Land Trust Census tallies data only from local and regional land trusts, national land trusts have protected millions of acres as well.Said Ms. Hocker, who has led LTA for 14 years, “In nearly every corner of America, people can point proudly to land that is voluntarily conserved through a land trust – land that is important for its wildlife and natural resources values, for scenic and recreational values, for its value as productive farm, ranch and timberland and – most essentially – for its value to people’s lives.
* A record 1,263 local and regional land trusts were in operation in 2000, a 42 percent increase over the number (887) that existed in 1990.
* For the first time since 1891, when the first nonprofit land trust was founded in the United States, open space has been permanently protected in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico by nonprofit, grassroots land trusts.
“Local and regional land trusts are nonprofit organizations that people have formed, grown and supported in order to protect and give long-term stewardship to open space.
They represent people’s ambitions, hopes and dreams for their communities and generations yet to come,” noted Ms. Hocker.
The Census Findings
During the last decade of the 20th Century, growth has occurred in every facet of the land conservation movement:
* California, New York and Montana led the nation in the amount of acreage protected by local and regional land trusts.Land trusts protect a variety of land types. Among the types most commonly identified as “primary” in the National Land Trust Census were wetlands, river corridors, watersheds/water quality, and farmland and ranchland.
* In the Southwest (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah), land trusts increased protected lands by 2,201 percent to 929,602 acres, up from 40,403 acres protected as of 1990. In second place, the South Central region (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas) experienced a 1,343 percent increase in protected acreage – 105,967 acres as of 2000 compared to 7,341 acres a decade earlier.
* The South Central portion of the country (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas) saw the most rapid growth in the number of land trusts. In that region, Texas saw the greatest growth, with 22 land trusts conserving land in 2000 as compared to just nine in 1990. The Southwest and Southeast followed in the second and third spots.
* Massachusetts, the birthplace of land trusts, continued to lead the nation with 143 nonprofit land conservation organizations. California (132) and Connecticut (112) followed in the listing.
Early land trust leader Charles Elliot likened the public benefit of protected open space to that of access to books in libraries and artworks in museums,” noted Ms. Hocker. “One hundred years later, open places are more fragile even than great paintings and books. The success of land trusts shows us just how much people treasure these places and how hard they will work to ensure their conservation. A decade from today, a century from now, and far into the future, our descendants will be grateful.”
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