The land you save today is the land you will protect tomorrow — and every day after that, forever. Land trusts need to be ready to keep our promises to protect the land whenever it is threatened. So far, major legal challenges have been few and far between, but that’s changing. We expect to see more and more challenges to conservation lands.
Why? A big reason is that thousands of properties under conservation easements are changing hands, from the people who originally protected them to new owners who might not share that vision. As new owners take over, violations go up. Trespassers can also damage conservation lands, including properties that land trusts own — and trespassing is likely to increase in some areas as the population grows. Protected land — because it remains open — can also become a target for high-impact infrastructure, such as new roads or transmission lines.
Here are resources to help you prevent legal challenges and respond effectively when they come up.
Legal Defense Reserves Calculator
How can your land trust ensure it has an adequate legal defense reserve to protect your preserves and conservation easements? It is now easier than ever before to calculate your reserve number using the new Legal Defense Reserves Calculator featured on The Learning Center*.
- Calculate minimum reserve levels tailored for a specific situation — the Land Trust Alliance worked with independent actuaries to construct the calculator using actuarial analysis and data collected from hundreds of land trusts across the nation, building upon previous studies of basic thresholds for defense funding. The results are tailored by land trust history, holdings, age, state and size.
- Give your supporters the information and confidence they want to donate the funds you need to save more land.
- Help your land trust survive significant legal challenges or a series of challenges.
- Uphold Land Trust Standards and Practices, which require land trusts to determine the long-term stewardship and enforcement expenses and to secure adequate funds to cover those costs.
View this one-pager for more information about the calculator If you have additional questions, please contact Conservation Defense Coordinator Lorri Barrett at 202-800-2219 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Conservation defense requires special legal expertise. So how can you find the right attorney? Our Attorney Locator, featured on The Learning Center*, connects land trusts with experienced conservation attorneys. If you’re a land trust, you can use this tool to search for the lawyer you need, by state or specialty, and you can see references from their previous land trust clients. If you’re a conservation attorney, post an up-to-date profile so land trusts can find you.
Conservation Defense Clearinghouse
Conservation defense is a new field of law, evolving every day. The Conservation Defense Clearinghouse, featured on The Learning Center*, provides comprehensive, up-to-date information so land trusts and their attorneys can stay on top of it. Experts vet documents before they go into the Clearinghouse, which includes practical tips, case summaries, law review articles, statutes, tax code information, sample documents and legal templates. Advanced search tools help you find exactly what you’re looking for.
Conservation Defense Fund
The Alliance is committed to making sure that land trusts win every precedent-setting case. Our Conservation Defense Fund provides backup for the legal battles that are most important for the land trust community to win. Individual land trusts must also prepare to meet the financial demands of conservation defense, through dedicated reserve funds and/or Terrafirma insurance.
We all need to take risks if we’re going to get anywhere--but we need to be smart about them. Risk management is a discipline for dealing with uncertainty. Proactive risk management allows you to seize opportunities as well as limit damage. The Alliance provides free risk management tools for all of our member land trusts as affiliates of the Nonprofit Risk Management Center. These free tools include:
- Risk management tips, e-newsletters and webinars
- One-on-one assistance by phone or email with questions about risk, insurance, and organizational risk management
You can also contact the Nonprofit Risk Management Center about custom services.
Want to learn more about risk management? Look for upcoming webinars. Or take the Land trust Standards and Practices course on risk management.
*The Learning Center is a service offered to Alliance member land trusts and partners, and to individual members at the $250 level and above.