What is a land trust?

Land trusts conserve natural resources that keep environments vibrant, enjoyable and sustainable. Rooted in local communities, land trusts work with residents, landowners and agencies to conserve natural areas, parks, and farmlands for many public benefits. These protected lands enhance the local economy, provide great educational opportunities and improve public health. California is home to more than 150 land trusts that have protected more than 2.5 million acres.

What does a land trust do?

Organized as charitable organizations under federal tax laws, land trusts conserve land for its natural resources, recreational opportunities, scenic beauty, historic significance, and productive values.  As a land trust, MRT’s first step to conserving land is acquisition. Beyond that, MRT’s mission also includes restoring land that it has acquired or is managing, and offering education programs about the importance of conservation. The land trust movement began over 100 years ago on the east coast and has gained tremendous momentum over the years.  Over 1,200 land trusts operate in the United States.

What is a conservation easement? How does it help protect the Santa Monica Mountains?

Conservation easements protect open space and enhance the quality of life in rapidly growing urban and suburban areas by providing protected buffers around wildlife corridors. A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. A donated easement can qualify as a tax-deductible charitable donation when the donation benefits the public by permanently protecting important conservation resources and meets other federal tax code requirements. The amount of the donation is generally the difference between the land’s value with the easement and its value without the easement. If you are interested in creating a conservation easement, please contact our Executive Director, Debbie Sharpton at (818)591-1701.

What is a Fee Title or Fee Simple?

Land trusts, other conservation organizations and government agencies may choose to protect land by acquiring the property they wish to protect. The acquisition of the land (fee title or fee simple) allows the conservation owner to manage the property to preserve and protect its conservation values. The land can be acquired by purchase, donation or a combination of the two. If a private landowner donates the land to a qualified non-profit such as a land trust or to a government agency, the private donor may be able to deduct the value of the donation as tax-deductible charitable gift.

If a land trust acquires the land, the land trust may retain ownership of the property as a permanent preserve or transfer the property to a suitable owner, such as a government agency. In some cases, the land is sold to a private owner, subject to a conservation easement held by the land trust. Proceeds from such a sale could fund the land trust’s long-term management of the conservation easement and/or help it to protect even more land.

What is mitigation?

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) both require that the potential impacts on species, habitat and farmland from development be considered. Measures are taken to balance those negative impacts through a process known as “mitigation.” Mitigation is frequently required when significant impacts are identified by the environmental review process. Mitigation is defined in Section 15370 of the California Code of Regulations (CEQA Guidelines) as:

(a) Avoiding the impact altogether by not taking a certain action or parts of an action.

(b) Minimizing impacts by limiting the degree or magnitude of the action and its implementation.

(c) Rectifying the impact by repairing, rehabilitating, or restoring the impacted environment.

(d) Reducing or eliminating the impact over time by preservation and maintenance operations during the life of the action.

(e) Compensating for the impact by replacing or providing substitute resources or environment.

The need to provide measures to avoid, minimize, rectify, reduce, and/or compensate for the loss of habitat and farmland resulting from development or other land use changes has fostered the exploration of a variety of mitigation approaches in California over the last 25 years. Preservation of habitat and land to offset the loss of those resources is an approach that is fundamental to the concept of mitigation. Mitigation strategies include direct protection of land by acquisition of fee title or conservation easements, participation in a mitigation bank, term protection via deed restrictions, and in lieu fees for acquisition. Of these approaches, conservation easements are one of the most common tools used to mitigate for the loss of habitat and farmlands. Recent court cases such as Masonite[1] have upheld the validity of farmland conservation easements as a means of implementing required mitigation for the loss of other farmland due to development projects.

What is a grant?

Conservation organizations may apply for and receive grants to help fund their conservation activities. There are two basic sources of grants: public agencies and private philanthropic charities such as foundations. Grant programs focus on specific topics such as land conservation, energy, or education. Grants are generally based upon an agreement to achieve a goal such as acquiring a specific piece of property, holding community meetings, developing a conservation plan for an area, implementing a restoration project or building a trail system. Generally, grants are awarded for a specific project, although the funding from that one award may stretch across multiple years. After a grant proposal is submitted to the agency or foundation, there is a time delay before an organization is notified if it will receive the grant. Most granting agencies and foundations require grant recipients to submit updates of how the grant money is used and how the project is progressing.

How do I volunteer?

If you are interested in volunteering with our community restoration events, take a look at our calendar of events.  When you find an event you would like to attend, please register for the event via our Eventbrite page.  Registration is required for all events.  We have a limited amount of tools and supplies and want to make sure all our volunteers are covered.  Once registered, you will receive a confirmation email with the event details and directions.

How old do I have to be to volunteer?

All of our volunteer opportunities are open to all ages, however volunteers under the age of 18 must bring a signed parental consent form and volunteers under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.