Photo by Mark Bugnaski

Frequently Asked Questions

A land trust (or “conservancy”) is a nonprofit organization that permanently conserves land through conservation easements (permanent land protection agreements), and may also own and manage conservation lands (that were donated or purchased) for the benefit of the public. Oversight of land trusts is through a volunteer board of directors. Land trusts each have their own defined service area, which vary in size from several townships to entire states, and their own priorities, like forest, water, prairie or farmland protection. There are approximately 50 land trusts in Wisconsin and 1,700 nationwide.

We rely on individuals and families who make annual gifts of all levels. (Anyone who donates is considered a member for one year.) Some make gifts from donor-advised funds and IRAs. Family foundations are encouraged to offer support to our programs! Private foundations and select government programs award competitive grants to our land protection programs and projects.  Bequests and major gifts help build our capacity and elevate our effectiveness in protecting land. Visit Support NWLT to learn more.

The Northwoods Land Trust is a proud member of the Land Trust Alliance and Gathering Waters: Wisconsin’s Alliance for Land Trusts. We partner with many others, including county lake/river associations and land/water conservation departments. See our Initiatives for partners who work with us regularly.

NWLT is an accredited land trust. The Land Trust Accreditation Program is managed through the National Land Trust Accreditation Commission. Each accredited land trust completes a rigorous review process every five years. Accreditation ensures that a land trust has the financial resources and proper policies and procedures in place to monitor and legally defended conservation lands in perpetuity and protect them for their natural values.  Learn more.

There’s a globally significant concentration of glacial lakes in the northwoods of Wisconsin (primarily in Vilas and Oneida Counties). We have one of the highest freshwater lake densities in the world, rivaled only by parts of northern Minnesota, Ontario and Finland. We also have relatively intact forests that keep our surface and ground water clean and provide refuge for wildlife. Our economy depends on healthy and accessible natural resources (e.g. boating, snowmobiling, hunting, fishing, forestry).

The land that we protect is privately owned, while being protected for the benefit of the public. All of the land protected by conservation easements are privately owned, and each landowner maintains rights to allow, limit or prohibit public access. Land that NWLT owns is technically private, and we open it to the public for use according to our established guidelines. Land trusts oftentimes protect land that is adjacent to public lands, resulting in increased conservation protection and less ecological fragmentation. In special cases, land trusts will take ownership of lands that were once publicly owned.

Land trusts offer services mainly to private landowners that are permanent in nature, and are all voluntary. (Some land trusts may also offer secondary services that are not permanent in nature.) Multiple forms of tax benefits can be realized for donating conservation easements and land. Land trusts may work in partnership with government agencies, especially if a regional area is of interest to both groups, and/or seek grant funding from government programs for certain projects or initiatives.

There are a number of permanent land protection options available through NWLT. Visit our Protecting Your Land page.

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