Land trusts typically protect open space by acquiring conservation easements or fee acquisition (ownership) of land parcels.
Easement: A conservation easement is an agreement between a private landowner and a qualified organization, such as a land trust, that protects the natural, cultural and/or historic resources of the land in perpetuity.
The easement agreement allows a land owner to retain ownership and use of his/her property while limiting certain uses that may be harmful to the resources being proetected. It is tailored to the conservation goals of the land trust and the land owner, and to the features of the property itself.
Eased properties may or may not be open to the public, depending on the owner’s wishes. Easements can provide access for trail corridors, fishing and boating, or riparian buffers.
Easement agreements apply to the current and future owners of the land.
Fee Acquisition: Land trusts become the owners and permanent stewards of special properties through bequests, gifts, bargain sale or fair-market purchases of land. Ownership by a land trust can provide the strongest guarantee of long-term conservation.