Millions of acres of land across the U.S. are being saved from development through the efforts of state and local land trusts and conservation groups, a new study says.
Over the past five years, the amount of land saved by trusts has almost doubled to 11.9 million acres, says the National Land Trust Census, conducted by the Land Trust Alliance.
Including the work of national conservation groups, a total of 37 million acres have been preserved through non-governmental sources.
The western region of the U.S. boasts the highest growth rate, both in acres saved and in the number of land trusts, the study says, followed by the Southeast.
Overall, the number of land trust in the country increased to 1,263 from 1,667 since 2000, and acres protected by conservation easements grew 148 percent over the same period.
Almost four in 10 land trusts list their primary focus as protecting natural areas and wildlife habitat, the study says, while about the same number cite preserving open space and one in four cite water resources.
Reliance on endowments by land trusts is growing, with more than half maintaining endowments that total more than $1 billion.