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What Is Land Conservation?

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  • Written By: B. Miller
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 19 July 2014
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Land conservation refers to various methods of preserving land, and ensuring it is protected forever from development. There are a variety of ways that this type of conservation takes place, and a wide variety of nonprofit organizations, as well as governmental agencies, working around the world with this goal in mind. It can take place on a private or public scale; for instance, an individual may decide to forever protect his or her land from development, just as a government may decide the same by creating public lands such as national parks or wilderness areas. Different goals may exist for land conservation, from protecting the scenic value of a property to protecting endangered species, but it always helps to preserve natural spaces for future generations.

One of the most common examples of land conservation is the protection of privately owned lands with a conservation easement. An easement is a binding legal document that stays with the deed for the future of the property, and protects it in perpetuity according to the conditions specified within. An organization known as a land trust or a conservancy holds the conservation easement, and is responsible for making sure the regulations specified in the easement are followed. This is referred to as land stewardship.

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The types of regulations specified in the land conservation easement can vary from property to property, based on the desires of the land trust and the desires of the property owner, since each must come to an agreement before the easement is signed. For instance, some landowners may want to keep their property "Forever wild," meaning natural resource extraction or timber management may never occur, in addition to other land uses. Others might want to leave their options open to build a second dwelling, to practice small-scale agriculture, or sustainably manage their forest resources for profit. Some easements will be designed to manage the land for the protection of a particular species, but this is less common with private land conservation.

Public land conservation protects land in different ways, either by designating wilderness or conservation areas, natural parks, or similar. Allowable land uses will vary depending on how the land is designated. Many international conservation organizations take some different approaches to land conservation, including getting indigenous communities involved in planning land development. Conservation does not always mean setting property aside, never to be used; often, it means working together to figure out sustainable solutions for the plants, wildlife, and people who call an area home. This might include staggered logging strategies, for example, where only older trees of certain types are allowed to be cut every few years, with a requirement that new trees must be planted at the same time.

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