Saving land – Hunt targets 1M acres

As the administration of Gov. Jim Hunt unveils a plan to protect one million acres of North Carolina’s green space during the next decade, the state’s 24 land trusts are feeling the pressure to raise funds to keep pace with land acquisitions, The News & Observer in Raleigh reports.

In every county in the state, private, nonprofit land trusts arrange for owners to sell or donate their land, or change their deeds to prohibit development through conservation easements.

Property owners can receive tax benefits for donating the land or protecting it from development, the N&O says.

Private land trusts protect more than 36,400 acres in the state.

Landowners who want to protect their property from developers prefer to deal with land trusts because they move quickly and conduct confidential land negotiations – unlike the state.

Arrangements with land trusts also enable landowners to receive some financial reward for preserving their land without having to leave it, the N&O reports. 

By turning to land trusts to carry out his initiative, Hunt avoids what might be perceived as a land grab by government, the newspaper says.

But Mary Kiesau of the Sierra Club told the N&O: “We can’t expect the nonprofit world to pick up the tab to preserve land. It’s a state duty.”

Charles Roe, executive director for Conservation Trust for North Carolina, told the N&O: “There’s a queue of interested landowners at the door of most private land trusts. If there’s going to be greater expectations from these nonprofit organizations, there needs to be a greater level of support for our work.

Trusts like the Triangle Land Conservancy warn that being a responsible steward of property takes time and money – to monitor boundaries, clear fallen trees or prevent illegal dumping, for example.

In the face of limited resources, land trusts have become more discriminating in the property they accept.

Top priorities are natural land that’s intact and worth preserving. At the bottom of the list leftover land offered by developers that absorbs runoff from subdivisions. 

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