What Are Land Trusts?

Land trusts are non-governmental private nonprofit organizations whose purpose is to protect and preserve important land resources for the public benefit. Yolo Land Trust (YLT), founded in 1988, is one of the oldest land trusts in the Central Valley. YLT’s efforts are joined by over 1,700 other organizations that also work at the local, regional, national or international level to protect important land resources. These resources are defined by the needs of the community or region, and may include working lands (farms or ranches), wetlands, wildlife habitats, watersheds, threatened ecosystems, open space, scenic landscapes and historic or cultural sites.

Land trusts come in all sizes, from the large Nature Conservancy to trusts such as YLT, which is run by a small staff and volunteers. When evaluating a land trust, review the diversity in the makeup of the board of directors, the trust’s community involvement and level of community financial support, and its track record of sound transactions and easement stewardship.

California land trusts receive support and advice from two membership organizations that foster the sharing of information and organizational development. The Land Trust Alliance is a national “umbrella” organization that has established standards and practices which are a guide for ethical and sound business practices. The California Council of Land Trusts works with more than 150 land trusts in California to develop a strong, effective land trust community with the financial and policy resources to protect California's landscapes.

How are Land Trusts Funded?

Funds for land trust operations and land protection activities may come from several sources. Some come directly from the organization’s supporters as donations. Other funds may come from private foundations, corporations, governmental sources, and local businesses.