To quote from Starting A Land Trust, published by the Land Trust Alliance :
“Land trusts are local, state or regional non-profit organizations directly involved in protecting land for its natural, recreational, scenic, historical, or productive value. Most land trusts are private, non-profit corporations. There are also a few governmental or quasi-governmental bodies called land trusts that operate with the freedom and flexibility of a private trust, some of which have a private board or the ability to use private funds. Land trusts are not “trusts” in the legal sense, and may also be called “conservancies,” “foundations,” or any number of other names descriptive of their purpose.”
Land trusts are distinguished by their first-hand involvement in land transactions or management. This involvement can take many forms. Land trusts may:
* purchase or accept donations of land or of conservation easements
* manage land owned by others or
* advise landowners on how to preserve their land.
* help negotiate conservation transactions in which they play no other role.
* work cooperatively with government agencies by acquiring or managing land,
* research open space needs and priorities
* assist in the development of open space plans.
* work with other non-profit organizations and sometimes with developers.
A land trust may do one, several, or all of the things mentioned above.
Some land trusts are organized to protect a single piece of property, but the more active trusts have a larger land protection agenda. They may focus their efforts in a community, in a region, on a particular type of resource such as farmland or forest lands, or on a protection project. Some operate statewide and work cooperatively with local land trusts in addition to conducting their own land conservation projects….
Most land trusts depend on volunteer leadership and support even if they also have a professional staff. They have the potential to bring together a wide range of people in a community, such as naturalists, planners, farmers, hunters, landowners, community leaders, sometimes developers, and others who care about special lands in their communities.”