Land trusts have many advantages as a vehicle for protecting land. They can hold and manage land and other assets as a corporation, rather than through individuals. As private organizations, land trusts can be more flexible and creative and can generally act more quickly than government agencies, since they are not as restrained by politics and procedures. They are able to negotiate with landowners discreetly, confidentially, and quickly.
Their nonprofit status brings them a variety of tax benefits. Donations to land trusts may qualify donors of land, conservation easements [also called conservation restrictions], or money for income, estate, or gift tax savings. Properly structured land trusts are exempt from federal and state income taxes, and sometimes from local property and real estate transfer taxes as well. Nonprofit status is also an advantage in raising funds from a variety of sources.
As community-based organizations, land trusts draw on community resources, including volunteer time and skills. Their community orientation is also helpful in selecting and negotiating transactions. They are familiar with the land in the area and often have the trust and confidence of local landowners who may not want to work with government agencies or entities from outside the community.
(Source: The Land Trust Alliance. Starting a Land Trust: A Guide to Forming a Land Conservation Organization. Virginia: The Land Trust Alliance, 1990.)