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A magnificent 200-year-old oak tree named, “John’s Oak” at the St. Simons Island.
When we asked our partners at the St. Simons Land Trust about what they’ve been thankful for this year they told us that the opportunity to operate a land trust in one of coastal Georgia’s most diverse ecosystems is something to be thankful for in and of itself. Land trusts are a really important conservation tool–in addition to public lands–and we wanted to take a moment to help explain how they work and why we should all be thankful for them!
The Basics: There are roughly 1,000 land trusts in the nation of those, nearly 400 are accredited (including the St. Simons Land Trust!). This is an extremely rigorous process that has to be reapplied for every five years.
Broadly, land trusts can:
Purchase land through fundraising
Have land donated to them
Hold a conservation easement on a piece of land owned by someone else. A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values.
What Makes Land Trusts Unique: According to the Tall Pines Conservancy, many land trusts work cooperatively with government agencies by acquiring or managing land, researching conservation needs and priorities, or assisting in the development of open space plans. However, because they are private organizations, land trusts can be more flexible than public agencies – and can act more quickly – in conserving important lands.
Why Land Conservation Matters: We write a lot about the importance of protecting nature. There are a lot of benefits that healthy and protected ecosystems provide, in short they,
Help filter our air and water
Absorb carbon emissions
Conserve wildlife habitat
Protect cultural and historical assets
Provide places to reflect and recreate
Provide natural spaces for educational opportunities
Provide protection from natural disasters, such as floods and droughts
For landowners, conservation through a land trust also has financial benefits in addition to environmental ones, including:
Income tax deductions derived from loss of development rights
Lower property tax
Lower estate tax when passing property on to a family member
Why This Matters: Land trusts across the nation have conserved a staggering 56 million acres, an area of protected land that is double the size of all the land in national parks across the lower 48 states. The success of these conservation stats result from, in part, an increased number of land trusts at work in more areas of the country, with more staff and more volunteers. This success also relies on stable federal conservation incentives, along with a variety of state and local policies that support conservation.
The Supreme Court heard oral argument yesterday in a case brought by a group of Montana landowners who want to force ARCO (which is owned by oil giant BP) to comply with state law and reduce arsenic levels in the soil throughout their community to pre-contamination levels. The Justices — even the liberal ones — appeared to side with the Company.
Why This Matters: When the EPA cares more about protecting a polluting company and limiting its liability than protecting the innocent victims of that toxic pollution from harm, federal “pre-emption” of state law claims can actually frustrate the intent of the statute — which was to make the polluters pay for the clean up of their toxic contamination.
According to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, climate change may increase the frequency and intensity of certain natural disasters, which could damage Superfund sites—the nation’s most contaminated hazardous waste sites.
Why This Matters: Spilled Superfund sites can cause deadly outcomes for the people that have to live near them, not to mention the havoc they wreak on wildlife.
Rising global temperatures are worrying truffle hunters around the Italian town of Alba, where the most prized specimens can fetch twice the price of gold. To stave off the longer-term climate change impact on the production of the highly prized white truffle, experts have launched initiatives to better preserve the territory where they grow.