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Standards and Practices

The Land Trust Standards and Practices are the ethical and technical guidelines for the responsible operation of a land trust. The Land Trust Alliance developed the Land Trust Standards and Practices in 1989 at the urging of land trusts who believe a strong land trust community depends on the credibility and effectiveness of all its members and who understand that employing best practices is the surest way to secure lasting conservation. This is a living document and was revised in 1993, 2001, and 2004 to reflect changes in land trust practices and regulations governing nonprofit organizations. The 2004 revisions were prepared by a team of land trust leaders and reviewed by hundreds of conservationists to capture and share the experience of land trusts throughout the country.

The nationís more than 1,500 non-profit land trusts have conserved millions of acres of wildlife habitat, farms, ranches, forests, watersheds, recreation areas and other important lands. The continued success of land trusts depends both on public confidence in, and support of, the conservation efforts of these organizations and on building conservation programs that stand the test of time. It is every land trustís responsibility to uphold this public trust and to ensure the permanence of its conservation efforts.

While Land Trust Standards and Practices is designed primarily for non-profit, tax-exempt land trusts, it also provides important guidance for any organization or government agency that holds land or easements for the benefit of the public.

Land Trust Standards and Practices is organized into 12 standards and supporting practices to advance the standards.

  1. Mission

    The land trust has a clear mission that serves a public interest, and all programs support that mission.

  2. Compliance with Laws

    The land trust fulfills its legal requirements as a non-profit tax-exempt organization and complies with all laws.

  3. Board Accountability

    The land trust board acts ethically in conducting the affairs of the organization and carries out the boardís legal and financial responsibilities as required by law.

  4. Conflicts of Interest

    The land trust has policies and procedures to avoid or manage real or perceived conflicts of interest.

  5. Fundraising

    The land trust conducts fundraising activities in an ethical and responsible manner.

  6. Financial and Asset Management

    The land trust manages its finances and assets in a responsible and accountable way.

  7. Volunteers, Staff and Consultants

    The land trust has volunteers, staff and/or consultants with appropriate skills and in sufficient numbers to carry out its programs.

  8. Evaluating and Selecting Conservation Projects

    The land trust carefully evaluates and selects its conservation projects.

  9. Ensuring Sound Transactions

    The land trust works diligently to see that every land and easement transaction is legally, ethically and technically sound.

  10. Tax Benefits

    The land trust works diligently to see that every charitable gift of land or easements meets federal and state tax law requirements.

  11. Conservation Easement Stewardship

    The land trust has a program of responsible stewardship for its easements.

  12. Fee Land Stewardship

    The land trust has a program of responsible stewardship for the land it holds in fee for conservation purposes.