“These protected lands support a wide variety of critical conservation purposes, including improved water quality, wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation, local foods and healthy forests, “ said Jonathan Jarosz, Heart of the Lakes’ Executive Director. “Moreover they contribute to the economic vitality of our communities and regions, creating exceptional places to live and work.”
96,104 acres are owned by land conservancies as nature preserves or sanctuaries, an increase of 4,663 acres since 2013. Conservancies acquire them through purchase or donation and make them available to the public for quiet recreation.
111,873 acres are protected by conservation easements, voluntary legal agreements between landowners and land conservancies that permanently protect significant conservation values by restricting future development on natural, scenic, farm and forest lands. The lands remain in private hands and on the tax rolls. Conservancies added 2,265 acres of conservation easements in the past year.
By far the largest segment of lands conservancies have helped protect are assistance or transfers of lands to local government or the state, supporting their efforts to secure parklands and open space. Land conservancies often negotiate with landowners, secure lands and raise funds to make these acquisitions possible. Over 383,638 acres have been protected this way, with an increase of 1,793 acres in additional assists or transfers in the past year.
Land conservancies also manage or steward another 5,901 acres on natural lands owned by other entities.
“We are truly proud of the role land conservancies play in building great communities that are more environmentally and economically vibrant because of their work,” Jarosz stated. “But the real heroes are the many, many families and individuals who work with the conservancies to protect lands they love and the conservation values important to us all.”
To find out more about land conservancies and Heart of the Lakes, visit www.heartofthelakes.org or go to directory.heartofthelakes.org to find local, regional and state land conservancies.