Putting the Land in Trust

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Published on: Nov. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 27, 2010

the land, I left my hand."

Easements grant ORLT the right to enforce restrictions. The landowner still owns the land and may continue to live on it, will it to children or sell it. Restrictions prevail with each change in ownership. A farm sells at farm prices, not the price of adjacent development land. Easements may produce estate, income or property tax benefits, depending on the situation.

A large farm or estate can be protected, but so can a property of only a few acres. The site might be rural or urban. An easement doesn't open land to the public, unless that's a provision the owner wants.

Galbraith expects the conservation easement eventually to become ORLT's most widely used protection tool.

Community Land Trusts

These are locally administered nonprofit groups that own the land and are ORLT affiliates. ORLT has three community land trust affiliates in Missouri. Sweetwater and Hawk Hill are well established, with lease holders living on the land; Elixir Community Land Trust has acquired parcels of forest land along Bryant Creek.

The community land trust develops a land use plan in harmony with the ecosystem. Heavily wooded Sweetwater is divided into 14 homesteading tracts, hayfields along the Gasconade, other fields currently growing Christmas trees and black walnut trees and 80 acres of permanent conservation area.

Homestead lease holders pay modest monthly ground lease fees, which in turn pay the mortgage on the land. An annual assessment pays for taxes, property insurance and road and utility maintenance.

Lease holders build and own their homes, usually supplying much of the labor themselves. Houses are energy-efficient and utilize composting toilets and greywater filtering systems. The land will never be sold and will always be managed ecologically. When a land mortgage is paid off, lease fees may be used to add land to that community land trust.

John Cutler, a founding resident of Sweetwater, believes more people should be aware of the preservation option a community land trust offers. "I think something like it," he says, "if not exactly that, is going to have to be the coming thing in terms of the long-range future, because we're just trashing the planet at a high old rate. It's going to take something where people are more conscious of the land and take care of it."

Natural Areas. Places that have rare features or fragile habitat need protection, and they need buffer zones

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