Land Trust FAQ

What is a land trust?

There is no legal definition for "land trust," it is a term generally used to describe non-profit conservation organizations that either buy land or hold conservation easements, or both.  Land trusts work in partnership with landowners and communities to permanently conserve natural resources.  Some are large organizations working nationally, like The Nature Conservancy.  Others work regionally, and some work in very small locales.  All land trusts are run by a volunteer board of directors and some also have paid full-time staff.  Land trusts are the fastest growing conservation movement in the United States.

As a landowner, how can I protect my land?

Landowners can work with non-profit land trusts, and sometimes public programs to protect their private land from future development. Some of the legal tools available are:

  • Leaving land to a land trust in your will
  • Donating a conservation easement to a land trust or government agency
  • Selling the land or a conservation easement to a land trust or public agency
  • Participating in a registry or conservation buyer program through a local land trust

Click here for detailed information on the conservation options available and to download fact sheets on conservation options for landowners.

How do I find a land trust to work with?

Land trusts define their own, individual missions and areas in which they work. Some define their service area by  county boundaries, others focus their efforts on a particular watershed or ecosystem.  Most areas in Wisconsin have a local land trust working nearby. For a Wisconsin land trust directory, click here.

We recommend that landowners define their own goals for their property in addition to meeting with the land trust to learn about their conservation goals.

Will working with a land trust reduce my property taxes?

Many landowners hope that recording a conservation easement on their property will reduce property taxes. That is not necessarily the case; there is no requirement in Wisconsin Law that eased properties have reduced assessments. The rules governing property tax assessment in Wisconsin require that assessors consider the effect of an easement on fair market value. The Assessor’s Manual directs assessors to take into consideration the specific restrictions in each easement they encounter. For more information see The Impacts of Conservation Easements on Property Tax in Wisconsin.

Is Gathering Waters a land trust?

No, Gathering Waters is Wisconsin's Alliance for Land Trusts. While we do not protect land directly, we support land trusts by:

  • Providing training opportunities, technical assistance, and legislative lobbying support;
  • Educating landowners about land trusts' work;
  • Promoting public awareness of land trust accomplishments across the state; and
  • Facilitating collaboration among Wisconsin land trusts.

To learn more about us, click here.

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