Considering Economy, Conservation Efforts Remain on Upswing

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
6 February 2012
By Bob Frye

Efforts to conserve open space are doing relatively well, at least in relation to the sagging economy, according to a new report.

According to the Land Trust Alliance, 10 million new acres have been conserved nationwide by various private conservancies since 2005. By comparison, over the same time period, the federally funded Land and Water Conservation Fund saw a 38 percent decrease in funding, which limited the number of acres that could be conserved at just more than 500,000.

The work to conserve land in the private sector has changed in a couple of ways, though.

First, more people are involved. The Land Trust Alliance report said that the number of volunteers was up 70 percent over the past five-year period studied, while the number of paid employees was up 19 percent.

The kind of land being protected has changed, too. The preservation of family farms and ranchlands is now a priority for six of every 10 trusts, up from two of 10 in 2005. Urban parks, gardens or open spaces are now a priority almost three of 10 trusts, a threefold increase over respondents in 2005.

The Northeast has conserved the most land, 5.2 million acres.