Land trust census shows big gains for conservation

NEW YORK, NY – November 16, 2011 – The first nationwide census of land trusts in five years found 10 million new acres conserved since 2005, despite a down economy. Over the same time period, by comparison, the federally funded Land and Water Conservation Fund saw a 38 percent funding cut and added just over 500,000 newly protected acres.

The National Land Trust Census was released this week by our colleagues at the Land Trust Alliance, and showed that voluntarily protected land increased 27 percent between 2005 and 2010, with a greater percentage of the new acreage coming through local and state land trusts working within local communities. Nationwide, a total of 47 million acres—an area over twice the size of all the national parks in the contiguous U.S.—are now protected by land trusts.

“Americans value their land, and they are conserving it at the local level,” said Land Trust Alliance President Rand Wentworth. “While government is shrinking, local land trusts are saving more land than is lost to development. Communities nationwide value clean water, local food, and places to play, and they are investing in those places close to home.”

At the local and state level, endowments to ensure that land remains protected more than doubled, and operating endowments, an indicator of the staying power of these organizations, almost tripled. The census is online at

Land trusts in New York State—where OSI has protected nearly 120,000 acres in its 40-year history—preserved  973,807 acres from 2005 to 2010. That figure represents an astounding 88 percent increase in acres conserved, ranking New York sixth in the nation and second in the Northeast.

“Kudos to LTA for conducting the land trust census and giving us some good news during bleak economic times,” said OSI CEO and President Kim Elliman. “OSI is proud to be a part of the growing movement to preserve the historic, recreational and agricultural lands that represent the very best of America.”

As a signal of the land trust community’s commitment to excellence, there are now 13 accredited land trusts, including OSI, in New York State. Together, these 13 groups have protected 249,346 acres as of 2010.

Other findings of the 2010 National Land Trust Census showed that the preservation of family farms and ranchlands is now a priority for 61 percent of trusts, up from 21 percent that listed farmland as the top priority in 2005.

Urban parks, gardens or open spaces are now a priority for 27 percent of trusts, a threefold increase over respondents in 2005.

Overall, the Midwest region expanded its protected acres by 82 percent in the last five years. The Southwest added the most total acres—1.15 million—of any region since 2005, followed closely by the Southeast with 1.14 million. The Northeast has conserved the most acres at 5.2 million.

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