A land trust is a non-profit organization, also known as a charity, which has as its mission the goal of protecting land from development in order to preserve natural and cultural resources, vital waterways, working agricultural lands and/or wildlife habitat. Land Trusts may also have other related purposes, such as education or forestry. Land trusts come in all sizes, from the worldwide Nature Conservancy, to the New Hampshire Forest Society, to Moose Mountains Regional Greenways (MMRG).
Land Trusts may either own conservation lands (called fee ownership) or may hold conservation easements on lands owned by individual landowners or other conservation organizations. Easements and land acquisitions cost money in legal and transaction costs, staff time etc, which are covered through a mix of private and public donations, grant programs and other sources. Built into every easement or acquisition are long-term restricted funds dedicated to future legal expenses (for example if an easement was violated) and ongoing stewardship (care and maintenance of the land). These funds work like endowments in that there is an initial deposit and future withdrawals are restricted in nature and typically only draw on accumulated interest.