The land trust community is committed to excellence in our work. We’re committed to upholding the public’s trust. And we support each other in that commitment.
Together, land trusts have established a set of guidelines for how to run a land trust responsibly: Land Trust Standards and Practices (the Standards). These guidelines describe how to operate a land trust legally, ethically and in the public interest, with a sound program of land transactions and land stewardship.
Land trusts developed the first Standards in 1989 and revised them most recently in 2004. Hundreds of conservation leaders contributed to the 2004 revisions, so these guidelines represent the experience of diverse land trusts from across the country. Over 1,000 land trusts have adopted the Standards.
A Shared Commitment
Alliance member land trusts must adopt the Standards — meaning that they affirm these guidelines in principle and commit to steady progress in putting them into effect. To earn accreditation, a land trust must demonstrate that it has implemented the Standards, through rigorous verification of 26 indicator practices.
Land trusts share a commitment to these best practices because we know that for land conservation to succeed over the long term, we need to secure the public’s confidence and support. All land trusts must demonstrate effectiveness and credibility—otherwise, the ones that fall short could undermine the whole conservation movement.
Learn more about adopting and implementing the Standards.
Download Land Trust Standards and Practices
Twelve Guiding Principles
The Standards set 12 broad principles. These standards are broken down into 88 practices, which describe the essential actions needed to fulfill the Standards. Here are the 12 Standards that land trusts commit to uphold:
- The land trust has a clear mission that serves a public interest, and all programs support that mission.
- The land trust fulfills its legal requirements as a nonprofit tax-exempt organization and complies with all laws.
- The land trust board acts ethically in conducting the affairs of the organization and carries out the board’s legal and financial responsibilities as required by law.
- The land trust has policies and procedures to avoid or manage real or perceived conflicts of interest.
- The land trust conducts fundraising activities in an ethical and responsible manner.
- The land trust manages its finances and assets in a responsible and accountable way.
- The land trust has volunteers, staff and/or consultants with appropriate skills and in sufficient numbers to carry out its programs.
- The land trust carefully evaluates and selects its conservation projects.
- The land trust works diligently to see that every land and easement transaction is legally, ethically and technically sound.
- The land trust works diligently to see that every charitable gift of land or easements meets federal and state tax law requirements.
- The land trust has a program of responsible stewardship for its easements.
- The land trust has a program of responsible stewardship for the land it holds in fee for conservation purposes.