What is a land trust, anyway?


We at the Land Conservancy of Adams County regularly refer to ourselves as “a fully accredited nonprofit land trust”—but what exactly does that mean? 

Below is some information about land trusts provided by the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association:

There are several kinds of land trusts. Some land trusts own and operate preserves and recreation areas that are open to the public. Others work to acquire and then transfer critical land to governments for use as parks, game lands, or other public spaces. Some, like the Land Conservancy of Adams County, don’t seek to own land but rather hold, monitor, and enforce conservation easements that both reflect the landowner’s vision for the future of their land and achieve one or more conservation priorities. And some land trusts engage in all of these activities.

Once it has acquired the conservation easement, the Land Conservancy then takes on the responsibility of monitoring and, when necessary, enforcing the terms of the easement, in perpetuity. In this way we seek, as our mission states, to preserve the rural lands and character of Adams County, Pennsylvania. 

Land trusts have different conservation priorities. Some may work first and foremost to protect water quality. Others may prioritize the protection of open space for new parks, scenic views, wildlife preserves, or neighborhood gardens. Others may focus on conserving productive farmland or working forests. And some emphasize protecting biodiversity while others are more concerned with preserving traditional hunting grounds. The Land Conservancy of Adams County pursues all of these beneficial conservation priorities.

Most land trusts are nonprofit organizations. The Land Conservancy of Adams County is an independent, private charitable organization that is tax exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Our board of directors, which directs and is responsible for the actions of the Land Conservancy, is comprised of individuals drawn from the Adams County community.

Trustworthy land trusts follow best practices. The land trust movement has adopted stringent Land Trust Standards and Practices as ethical and technical guidelines for responsibly operating a land trust. The governing boards of most well-functioning land trusts, like the Land Conservancy of Adams County, have adopted these guidelines and continuously strive to conform to them.

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission is an independent body that confirms that a land trust conforms with the elements of the Land Trust Standards and Practices. Accreditation is purely voluntary. The Land Conservancy of Adams County is proud to be one of only 21 Pennsylvania land trusts to be accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission.

Still curious? Learn more about land trusts here.

We’re grateful to the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association’s ConservationTools.org for much of the content provided here.