Land trusts are powered by love of place. Just ask Laurel Sayer, executive director of Idaho Coalition of Land Trust (idaholandtrusts.org), the Gem State’s central resource for conserving private land.

“I may be optimistic, but I do believe the majority of Idahoans, especially in rural areas, really do appreciate wildlife, wildness and working lands,” Sayer says. “Some just don’t understand the tools to protect private property.”

Easing Idaho Into Conservation

By Kris Millgate

Photos courtesy of Idaho Coalition of Land Trusts

Easing the Process

ICOLT understands the tools. It acts as the central hub for individual land trusts and the professionals who run them who want to educate landowners interested in conserving their land.

Most land trusts are local in origin. They’re created in small communities where landowners want a way to preserve their undeveloped land for future generations. Those landowners are soccer moms and ranch hands. They are liberals and conservatives. ICOLT strives to connect everyone, regardless of background.

“This job is my way of connecting with the land and its people in order to keep Idaho, Idaho,” she says. “Ranchers and farmers are true conservationists. The most compelling thing that makes Idaho unique is the individuals who love their land and take care of it and want to make it better.”

Most farmers and ranchers who want to protect their property and keep it from development have working land that also provides value for wildlife. Protecting both with an easement means a subdivision won’t cut off crops or corridors for migration.

 

Easing the Pressure

Some easements are donations, but other easements come with compensation. That eases the pressure to provide for a family living off the land. Paying to keep land undeveloped also reduces the appeal of a developer’s dollar. Easements also ease the pressure on a community so over the years a land trust’s reach grows beyond private property.

“It’s a natural evolution. If you think about protection in perpetuity, you can only do it once. After that, it’s about making sure other open space resources are protected,” says Scott Boettger, Wood River Land Trust executive director. “We’ve transitioned from a committed, motivated clientele of landowners with something in common to a community with multiple interests. Everyone is busy so they might not even think about what’s at risk of loss until a fence goes up. We need to work to prevent that loss by being proactive.”

 

Easing the Future

Easements are also appealing because of their permanence. Long after a landowner passes, easements stay in place. That means leaving a legacy for the grandkids yet to be born is secure. The land can be sold, but the easement transfers right along with the land and the property remains protected.

“I love Idaho and our outdoors. I want my kids and my future grandkids to have the same opportunity to love it,” Boettger says. “Thankfully, many other Idahoans agree and the wild, open spaces that make our great state wonderful are in good hands.”