Chart­ing the history of land con­ser­va­tion across the US

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By CHI­NADAILY

Con­ser­va­tion is pop­u­lar across the United States and dates back to the early 1890s when the coun­try’s first non­profit pri­vate land trust was es­tab­lished.

Back then, the vi­sion­ary land­scape ar­chi­tect Charles Eliot pub­lished an ar­ti­cle en­ti­tled “Waverly Oaks” to de­fend his stand on vir­gin trees in Bel­mont, Mas­sachusetts, New Eng­land.

In the process of mak­ing a plea for the preser­va­tion of the oaks, Eliot out­lined a strat­egy for con­ser­va­tion. Con­cerned by the lack of “open spa­ces in ur­ban ar­eas” for peo­ple to en­joy, he pro­posed a plan to safe­guard “spe­cial bits of scenery”.

“Just as a public li­brary holds books and an art mu­seum holds pic­tures, a non­profit cor­po­ra­tion should be cre­ated to hold land for the public to en­joy,” he said.

His rec­om­men­da­tion was so well-re­ceived that the Mas­sachusetts Leg­is­la­ture es­tab­lished The Trustees of Public Reser­va­tions in 1891, with the task of ac­quir­ing and main­tain­ing for the public beau­ti­ful and his­toric places.

Fast for­ward­to­day, and­land trusts play a cru­cial role in pre­serv­ing vast tracks of ru­ral ar­eas such as pris­tine forests, nat­u­ral wa­ter sources and wildlife habi­tats.

Con­ser­va­tion-minded landown­ers who do­nate or sell their prop­erty to land trusts en­joy state and fed­eral tax ad­van­tages.

Ac­cord­ing to the 2010 Na­tional Land Trust Cen­sus by Land Trust Al­liance, a con­ser­va­tion group re­leas­ing re­ports ev­ery five years, there are 1,700 non­profit land trusts in the US.

These trusts pro­tect a to­tal of 47 mil­lion acres of land— an area more than twice the size of all the na­tional parks in the coun­try.

One of the most well-known con­ser­va­tion­ists in the US is media ty­coon Ted Turner, founder of the Ca­ble News Net­work, more known as CNN.

“Dur­ing the past sev­eral decades, Ted Turner has made his mark as one of the most in­flu­en­tial phi­lan­thropists in the US,” the web­site, ted­, pointed out. “His five foun­da­tions are ded­i­cated to se­cur­ing a safer, health­ier fu­ture for our planet by ad­dress­ing such is­sues as en­vi­ron­men­tal ed­u­ca­tion, dis­ease erad­i­ca­tion, and wildlife con­ser­va­tion, among many oth­ers.

“Turner’s foun­da­tions in­clude the Turner Foun­da­tion, Cap­tain Planet Foun­da­tion and the Turner En­dan­gered Species Fund, each of which works closely with Turner En­ter­prises.”

These or­ga­ni­za­tions own

pop­u­larly more than 2 mil­lion acres of land within the US.

In 2013, The Na­ture Con­ser­vancy hon­ored Turner for his life­time com­mit­ment to con­ser­va­tion. “He has pro­tected more lands through con­ser­va­tion ease­ments than any other in­di­vid­ual,” the foun­da­tion said.

Data re­leased by The Na­ture Con­ser­vancy shows that Turner’s en­ter­prises pro­tect 150,000 acres of land from Ge­or­gia in the south of the US to Mon­tana in the west. This in­volves con­serv­ing wa­ter re­sources, crit­i­cal habi­tat and en­dan­gered species.

Rox­anne Quimby, co­founder of the cos­met­ics com­pany Burt’s Bees, is another en­tre­pre­neur with deep pock­ets and a love for en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues.

Af­ter em­brac­ing “back to the land” ideas, she bought 75,000 acres in Maine, a state in New Eng­land, north­east US, in 2002 and plans to turn them into a na­tional park.

Be­fore Quimby’s pur­chase, Pin­gree Heirs, the eighth largest land own­ers in theUS, sold 1 mil­lion acres of it sub­sidiary Seven Is­lands Land to the­New Eng­land Forestry Foun­da­tion in 2001.

“This cre­ated an area larger than the state of Rhode Is­land and was off-lim­its to de­vel­op­ment,” The LandRe­port mag­a­zine, a quar­terly pub­li­ca­tion in the US that fo­cuses on top­ics of in­ter­est to land own­ers, said.

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