62,000 acres of land in 32 states-

Actually that’s not a very large acreage, but the acres were generally quite exceptional.

What the land trusts are doing is mostly quite beneficial, but what we need from Obama is a large government land acquisition program for wildlife habitat and other conservation purposes. Non-profits are going to have less money with the bad economy (although they may be able to pick up important remote parcels for which the developers had ugly plans).

The Trust for Public Land’s 2008 Parks and Conservation Achievements. News release.

The bulk of the national wildlife refuge system in the lower 48 states came from purchases, donations (often from distressed county governments) during the Great Depression.

About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

4 Responses to The Trust for Public Land. 2008 achievements.

  1. Debra K says:

    Ralph, I have become somewhat cynical about most land trusts after seeing some examples of their “protection.” These include areas preserved for open space, but grazed intensively by livestock to the point of lbecoming a feedlot. Problem is, in my opinion, no public transparency or accountability or ecologically-based standards for what really qualifies as protection. Plus, they tend to be a club for wealthy supporters and donors, who after all, are the ones that benefit from the generous tax deduction rules applicable.

    Yes, some land trusts perform valuable functions for the communities they operate in, and the TPL did some nice things cited in the article. But I’m with you, that govt programs are more effective and the way to go for land protection in the long run. We need to push federal land acquisitions/restoration with the new administration for wildlife protection and “green jobs.”

  2. Tom Page says:

    Ralph – There is already a good mechanism for acquiring federal land – it’s just been robbed by Congress for the last 30 years. Land and Water Conservation Funding has been particularly low in the last two presidencies.

    One of the things I’d particularly like to see come back in the Obama admin is the EPA restoration budget which was promptly zeroed by Bush in 2001 and kept that way ever since. Large-scale restoration programs are something the Army CoE probably would be good at, if they hire the right people.

    I think though, that federal dollars are only part of the solution. Good state programs need to be enacted to stretch private and federal funding.

    I strongly disagree however, that government programs are the way to go management-wise. Red tape is horrendous, management decisions are lowest common denominator policy at the expense of the resource, and there’s no continuity when it comes to management over time.

    Land trusts, done properly, are a far better solution. A good program should focus on ecological concerns, with an area-wide (or watershed-wide) acquisition and management plan in place. Currently, as Debra notes, most land trusts tend to rely on wealthy donor contributions of land, development rights or (less-frequently) cash. This leads to a piecemeal protection program, rather than a coordinated program encompassing the most environmentally critical private lands and water rights. This is why I’m such a strong proponent (as was argued a few weeks ago on this blog) of targeted private land acquisition by non-profits. Some land trusts, most notably Peninsula Open Space Trust in California, have recognized the need for aggressive acquisition, but most sit there with their hands out waiting for donations. It’s not cheap, but it’s the best way to go.

    Finally, the tax benefits are really not that important to easement programs. Helpful yes, but not a driving force behind any donor contribution I’ve seen. Cases of abuse regarding tax laws and conservation easements that I’ve read about almost always come from developers looking to shield profits.

  3. Tom,

    Thanks for mentioning the Land and Water Conservation Act funding for land acquisitions.

    I have not been able to find out why it has been so poorly funded (probably meaning I haven’t dug very hard).

    Land trusts and government funding actually go together well. The Trust for Public Land relies heavily on this — buying the land and handing it or selling it to a governmental entity.

    Easements are a less expensive way of conserving land than buying all rights, but I think too often public access is one of the rights not purchased by trust. You might have data, so correct me or inform me please.

    Then there is the matter of grazing. This has been a huge controversy in many cases where an expensive land trust purchase of a ranch is made and livestock grazing continues. No doubt someone will post about the WWP having to sue TNC over a ranch TNC bought in Owyhee.

    I know that has been a controversy forever. Reading conservation history, I learned about the long battle between Rosalie Edge and her Emergency Conservation Committee and the Audubon Society — back in the 1920s!

  4. Tom Page says:

    Public access is infrequently purchased by land trusts, in my experience. Often, public access leads to degraded resource values on the parcel one is trying to conserve. I can think of many parcels/waterways that were purchased and opened for public free-for-all only to see the great hunting and fishing disappear in two years, and the knapweed start to show up in all the campsites…

    Public access is really a separate issue from conservation, I think. I know Trout Unlimited has had big internal battles about this. I certainly agree that it helps tremendously to get people out the ground to support conservation, but the “wherever I want to go, whenever I please” mentality that currently grips most recreationists is as much to blame for the degradation of public lands as any cow.


January 2009


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey