Land Trust Spotlight

Published June 1, 1999


By comparison in Massachusetts–where the first land trust was created in the 1880s–only 1 percent of the land is in government hands.

Goldwater Institute research fellow Robert Franciosi urges increased private ownership of Arizona’s land to protect the state’s natural heritage. Rapid population growth “has created the worry that Arizona’s exceptional natural beauty will soon be buried under tract houses, golf courses and strip malls; a worry leading to several government initiatives to preserve the State’s natural heritage,” Franciosi notes.

Those initiatives have included the 1996 Arizona Preserve Initiative, which allows trust land to be leased or sold for conservation purposes, and the Growing Smart Act, which in 1998 expanded private conservation efforts on state trust lands. Franciosi has identified 17 Arizona-based organizations that operate land trusts or otherwise practice private conservation.


The land trust movement has been so successful in Wisconsin that it has its own umbrella organization. Gathering Waters was founded in 1995 to be the “unified voice for Wisconsin’s land trust community.”

According to executive director Vicki Elkini, Gathering Waters was established to “educate the public and landowners about options for conserving private lands; to provide technical assistance and training to help set up new land trusts; and to build the capacity of existing conservation organizations.”

Writing in LandOwner, a newspaper published by the Wisconsin Out-of-State Landowners Association, Elkini described several of the more than 40 community-based land trusts operating in Wisconsin. The Nature Conservancy, Ice Age Park & Trail Foundation, and Wisconsin Farmland Conservancy all operate statewide; the remaining trusts concentrate on working to preserve local land and water resources.

The Kinnickinnic River Land Trust and Friends of the Menomonee River, for example, focus on caring for rivers and their watersheds. The Cedar Lakes Conservation Foundation and the Green Lake Conservancy Foundation protect lakes and improving water quality. Still other trusts in the state focus on a range of natural resources in a particular region. All told, land trusts in Wisconsin protect some 18,000 acres.