Conservation News

12 Land Conservation Wins of 2020

In a year of hardship and sorrow, the field of conservation provided us with some moments of happiness and hope. 

Land Trusts across the United States completed projects to protect 1000’s of acres of wildlife habitat, scenic open space, and prime farmland.

This is an amazing feat in a year where COVID made an already difficult job of protecting land even harder. 

How Land Trusts Protect Nature and Farmland

Before we jump into our list of achievements, let’s look at how conservation groups protect nature and working agricultural landscapes. 

Over 1,500 land trusts operate in the US. These conservation nonprofits protect land from development through real estate purchases or donations.  

Sometimes, land trusts acquire properties outright to preserve them before they can be developed. Sometimes they acquire conservation easements which extinguish the development rights but allow the landowner to continue to own and use the property.

Below we list 12 conservation wins that land trusts achieved in 2020.


1. Sycamore Land Trust | Indiana

Land Trust Reaches 10,000 Acre Land Protection Milestone

In February, the Sycamore Land Trust reached a 10,000-acre milestone for conserved acres. Recent acquisitions to help them hit the mark included the donation of 188 acres of old-growth forest in Owen County and 92 acres of woods and open fields by the Hays family in Harrison County. They also purchased 15 acres to expand the Oxbow Preserve in Monroe County.

This land provides habitat for native wildlife and plants in Indiana including roost trees for the endangered Indiana bat, swampland for rare bald cypress trees, and remote patches for delicate orchids. The protected lands also support 35 miles of hiking trails for the public. 

Learn more about Sycamore Land Trust.

2. Congaree Land Trust | South Carolina

More than 8,200 Acres of Farmland, Working Forests and Wildlife Habitat Protected

Willow Lake in the Cowasee Basin. Photo courtesy of Congaree Land Trust

In 2020 alone the Congaree Land Trust protected over 8,200 acres of land in South Carolina. This acreage is the culmination of multiple projects completed around the central part of the state that protect land, resources and wildlife. This win will allow for a new section to the Palmetto Trail, protected timberland for a healthy Lynches River watershed and the preservation of working farmlands (Wild Turkey Creek Farm).

Learn more about the Congaree Land Trust.

3. Deschutes Land Trust | Oregon

Over 4,500 Acres of Wildlife Habitat Protected in Central Oregon

Overview of Priday Ranch outside of Madras, Oregon. Photo by Ryder Redfield, courtesy of Deschutes Land Trust.

The Deschutes Land Trust conserved the 4,500-acre Priday Ranch in central Oregon in October. The purchase was made possible in part through the help of the Pacific Northwest Resilient Landscapes Initiative. The protected land includes over 10 miles of steelhead spawning streams, habitat for golden eagles, mules deer and Rocky Mountain elk and holds cultural significance for Oregon tribes.

“We chose to work with the Land Trust because their goals for the land were similar to ours. The main ranch had been part of our family’s ranching operations for more than 100 years and we wanted to keep it intact. We felt the Land Trust valued that history and would build on our efforts to help keep Trout Creek healthy for steelhead.”
– Annan Priday, landowner

More than 1,123 Acres of Land along Whychus Creek Protected and Poised for Restoration

Aerial views of canyon and Whychus Creek at Rimrock Ranch. Photo by Russ McMillan, courtesy of Deschutes Land Trust

The canyons, pines and juniper forests of Rimrock Ranch in central Oregon will be forever protected thanks to a local landowner who worked with the Deschutes Land Trust to protect their 1,123-acre property in August. The Land Trust is planning for stewardship of the land into the future including restoration of the historic wet meadows along the Whychus Creek. This work will reestablish the creek’s historic floodplain for healthy, biologically diverse habitat. Once pandemic conditions improve, the Land Trust anticipates offering guided walks and hikes for the public.

Learn more about the Deschutes Land Trust.

4. Solano Land Trust | California

2,204-Acre Historic Ranch Protected in Northern California

Brazelton Ranch stone fruit orchards and range. Photo courtesy of Solano Land Trust.

In February, the Solano Land Trust finalized a conservation easement to protect the historic Brazelton Ranch. The dynamic 2,204-acre property supports irrigated farmland, rangeland for agricultural grazing, oak woodlands and grassland habitat, as well as a working orchard.

Along with 1,930 acres of adjacent protected land, the Brazelton Ranch now serves as an important open space buffer along the high-growth I-80 corridor between Sacramento and San Francisco. These properties protect important watershed land and wildlife corridors from intense development pressure.

Learn more about Solano Land Trust.

5. Nebraska Land Trust | Nebraska

1,147 Acres of Unplowed Prairie Protected 

Photo courtesy of Nebraska Land Trust.

In June, the Nebraska Land Trust partnered with landowners Brandon and Kami Meyer to place a conservation easement on 1,147 acres of unplowed prairie. The newly protected land borders the 612-acre Willa Cather Memorial Prairie.

Together these properties serve as a rare botanical treasure in a part of the state where most prairie has been converted to cropland.

The landowners, Brandon and Kami Meyer see their property not just as exceptional grasslands for grazing livestock but as an important refuge for wildlife fish and birds. Their strong passion to keep this land forever protected led them to partner with the Nebraska Land Trust. 

“It is our hope that this pasture can be a part of our legacy that is passed down to our children and someday grandchildren, and that they will be able to enjoy it in the same natural state that we do.
-Kami Meyer, landowner

Learn more about the Nebraska Land Trust.

6. Columbia Land Trust | Washington

4,900 Acres Added to Conservation Area for Washington’s Longest Wild River

After 12 years in the making, the Columbia Land Trust reached 11,000 acres of conserved land on the Klickitat Canyon Conservation Area. The most recent acquisition in July totaled 4,900 acres and completed the third and final step of the multi-phase effort. This protected land serves to connect ecosystems, maintain resilient forests and protect habitat including the upper two-thirds of the Klickitat River. As Washington State’s longest wild river this water is essential for healthy runs of salmon, steelhead and bull trout. 

“It is important to share the understanding of the importance of enhancing and protecting these significant aquatic and ecological places because a watershed like the Klickitat is the last of its kind.” 

– Phil Ridgon, Yakama Nation Natural Resources Superintendent

1,300 Acre Acquisition Sets Stage for 55-Foot Dam Removal

In March, the conservation of 1,300 acres in the Washougal River system of Skamania County marked a big win for the Columbia Land Trust. The acquisition of the land, in partnership with the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, sets the stage for the removal of a 55-foot dam on Wildboy Creek. Freeing up the river and conserving the surrounding ecosystem will restore the watershed for key species like salmon and steelhead as well as provide additional recreation opportunities.

“It’s very hopeful to have partners like the Land Trust available for the Tribe. We have similar missions: we want to take care of the land and we want people to be reconnected with the land.” 
-Bill Iyall, Cowlitz Indian Tribe Chairman

Learn more about the Columbia Land Trust.


7. Sonoma Land Trust | California

3,364 Acres of Family Ranch Protected for Agriculture, Habitat and Scenic Landscape

Gloeckner-Turner Ranch. Photo courtesy of the Sonoma Land Trust

Sonoma Land Trust played a key role in the purchase of a conservation easement on the Gloeckner-Turner Ranch in Northern California. The project protects diverse habitats and a scenic corridor in the high-growth Bay Area.

The 3,364 expansive acres are critical for wildlife movement and climate adaptation. The easement will ensure the lands remain protected for both wildlife and continued agricultural practice for the family’s financial sustainability.

“The mosaic of habitat types across the property are critical for wildlife movement and survival, and the diverse habitats not only provide a stunning landscape for all to enjoy, but also provide opportunities for climate change adaptation and resilience.”
– Sonoma County, Fifth District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins

Learn more about the Sonoma Land Trust.

8. Northeast Wilderness Trust | New England

719 Acres of Wildlife Habitat and Wetlands Protected in New England

Jack & Margaret Hoffman Wilderness Sanctuary. Photo by Shelby Perry, courtesy of the Northeast Wilderness Trust.

In 2020 the Northeast Wilderness Trust protected 719 acres of land. That land contributes to over 37,000 forever-wild acres the trust has protected across New England and the Adirondacks since its inception in 2002. 

One special property protected in November included 130 acres in southern New Hampshire. The Jack & Margaret Hoffman Wilderness Sanctuary protects extensive forest and wetland areas. The preserve contains high-quality habitat and connects existing conserved lands serving as an important wildlife corridor.  This is especially important as climate change makes it necessary for species to move and adapt. 

The landowners wished to provide a safe and peaceful home for wildlife so they sold the land at a bargain-sale price to the Wilderness Trust in memory of their parents.

Learn more about the Northeast Wilderness Trust.

9. Kentucky National Land Trust | Kentucky

1,368 Acres Acquired for Newly Established Warbler Ridge Preserve 

In December, the Kentucky Natural Lands Trust acquired 1,368 acres on Pine Mountain. Through this project, the land trust established Warbler Ridge Preserve which encompasses 2,456 acres in total.

Pine Mountain is a biologically diverse forested ridgeline that is vital habitat for thousands of species, nearly a hundred of which are rare species and some found nowhere else. The newly established preserve borders existing state-protected lands and provides habitat for the endangered long-eared northern bats. The preserve protects the headwaters of several tributaries of rivers that are important water sources for many communities and key habitat for aquatic species.

Learn more about the Kentucky National Land Trust.

10. Placer Land Trust | California

192 Acres of Land Protected From Development Provides Habitat Connectivity

Spring Garden Preserve featuring Lynnette Batt, Placer Land Trust’s Conservation Director. Photo courtesy of Placer Land Trust.

In July the Placer Land Trust purchased 192 acres creating the Spring Garden Preserve. The land, originally slated for the development of a 65-lot subdivision, will now be permanently protected for wildlife, local residents and future generations. This property borders an existing 416-acre preserve (Big Bend Preserve), which in turn borders thousands of acres of public lands, making it a valuable addition for habitat connectivity.

“It’s such a beautiful property with beautiful views of the canyon. We are hoping to expand and open the trails and maybe connect them to other public trails in the future.” 
– Lynette Batt, Conservation Director for Placer Land Trust

137 Acres of Beard Ranch Protected as Working Landscape

Beard Ranch. Photo courtesy of Placer Land Trust.

In April, the Placer Land Trust permanently protected the 137-acre historic Beard Ranch. The conservation easement forever protects an important property from development in the growing Sacramento Metropolitan Area while allowing landowner, Patti Beard, to continue ranching practices. In addition to sustaining an agricultural operation, the property also supports grassland and blue oak woodland habitat for wide variety of plants and wildlife.  

Learn more about Placer Land Trust.

11. Western Reserve Land Conservancy | Ohio

480 Acres of Land Protected for Agriculture and Community

The Western Reserve Land Conservancy protected 480 acres in central Ohio through a $3.7 million purchase. A mix of open fields, mature forests, and valuable wetlands, the property will serve as key conservation area that safeguards downstream water quality.  

As Ohio’s largest land trust, Western Reserve Land Conservancy protects over 790 properties totaling over 63,000 acres in the state.

Learn more about the Western Reserve Land Conservancy.

12. Land Trust for Tennessee | Tennessee

Sisters Protect 273-acre Family Farm

Photo courtesy of the Land Trust for Tennessee.

Sisters Lou Hoffmann and Rachel Harwell worked with the Land Trust for Tennessee to protect their beloved family farm for generations to come. The sisters recognized the spike in development around their property and took action to protect the land for its special scenic, agricultural and natural attributes. The 273-acre farm is now protected under a conservation easement.

The family continues to live on and work the land while bolstering its conservation value. With help from the Natural Resource Conservation Service, they have planted streamside trees and vegetation and improved habitat for local pollinators. 

“We are so fortunate to work with landowners who see the life of the land beyond their own. This family cares deeply about their farm, and we are honored to help them protect it.”
-Emily Parish, Vice President of Conservation at The Land Trust for Tennessee

Learn more about the Land Trust for Tennessee.


Alyson Morris is the Communications Specialist for CJB Network and writes on environmental career development. She is a graduate student at the University of Oregon and is pursuing her Master’s in Strategic Communication.


Environmental Careers

Career Spotlight: How Conservation Districts Protect Natural Resources

In almost every county in the United States you can find a local conservation district.  

Depending on where you live these organizations can go by different names, but they all operate with a similar purpose – to conserve natural resources and promote a healthy environment.

In this article, we review in detail what exactly conservation districts do and what career opportunities they offer. 


Common Names
»  Conservation District
»  Natural Resource Conservation District
»  Land Conservation Department
»  Natural Resource District
»  Resource Conservation District
»  Soil Conservation District
»  Soil and Water Conservation District


What are Conservation District Careers?

Every year thousands of people in the United States graduate from college with degrees in natural resource management, environmental science, agriculture and related fields.

A much larger number of people are looking for jobs related to natural resource conservation and sustainable agriculture. 

Conservation districts provide career opportunities to do this important work. 

Career focus areas include:

  • Education and Outreach
  • Soil and Agriculture
  • Forest Health and Wildfires
  • Wildlife Habitat
  • Invasive Species Removal
  • Water Use and Quality
  • Urban Environment

What is a Conservation District?

Conservation Districts (CDs) serve as local units of government across the United States.

Each CD operates within an individual county partnering with other organizations and private landowners to address natural resource issues.

Districts work directly with cooperating landowners in their region to help manage and protect land and water resources. 

They are the heart of what nourishes and sustains our country.

Why are Conservation Districts Important?

Around 60 percent of the land in the US is privately owned. That’s a lot of land!

The health of our environment depends on how private landowners manage natural resources.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Best practices for managing a property depend on local ecology and community needs. 

This is why nearly 3,000 Conservation Districts exist today. Each one employs specialized experts to suit the needs of their community. 

A Brief History of Conservation Districts

Early farmland cultivation did not include practices to ensure the long-term health of the soil. As a result, nutrients were depleted, deep-rooted plants were removed and the soil’s ability to maintain moisture was lost. 

When a horrendous drought hit south-central United States in the 1930s, up to 70% of topsoil, in some places, simply blew away. The resulting massive airborne dust clouds or “black blizzards” characterized the historic Dust Bowl. 

In an effort to rebuild soil foundation and improve the sustainability of precious resources, President Roosevelt developed legislation establishing conservation districts.

The nation that destroys its soil, destroys itself” – Franklin Roosevelt

Early CD efforts focused on soil health and included crop rotation, contour plowing and terracing practices. Today CD’s work more holistically and specialize in many areas of conservation. 


Definition: Terracing is a soil conservation practice applied to prevent rainfall runoff on sloping land from accumulating and causing serious erosion. Terraces consist of ridges and channels constructed across-the-slope.


What Conservation Districts Do?

Conservation districts develop resource programs relevant to the needs of the community and local ecosystems.

Education & Outreach

Through education and outreach, district staff teach people of all ages about their local resources and conservation.

District education programs like classroom presentations, workshops and field days, help people develop skills to creatively solve conservation problems on their land and in their community. 

Education and outreach efforts cover a variety of topics including the core areas mentioned below.

Soil & Agriculture

Conservation districts deliver tools and programs to strengthen farmland preservation, soil health, and agricultural economies. 

They also conduct research on crop rotation, cover crops and no-or minimum tillage systems. 

These practices help landowners increase organic content in topsoils and reduce erosion. They also benefit the local environment by keeping the air clean, decreasing flooding, and reducing sediment runoff.

Project Example: The San Mateo Resource Conservation District, in California runs a Good Earth Project, to improve soil health and restore habitat. Efforts include removal of the invasive Tasmanian blue gum eucalyptus on the ranchlands in Pescadero and conversion of the tree into soil amendments.

Forest Health & Wildfires

Conservation districts provide technical and financial assistance to small landowners to plan and implement forest conservation projects. Restoration projects and conservation easements facilitate the recovery of threatened and endangered species. They also enhance carbon sequestration. 

Additionally, CD’s develop and implement comprehensive forest management plans and hazardous fuels reduction projects. This helps communities protect life, property, and critical infrastructure.

Specialists help landowners secure federal funding for hazardous fuels reduction treatments, equipment for wildland fire suppression and public outreach.

Project Example: The Trinity County Resource Conservation District in California manages a number of Fuels Reduction Projects that strategically remove certain vegetation by hand, machine or using prescribed burns. In the Oregon Mountain area of Northern California, these projects have reduced over 50 acres of fuel.

Wildlife Habitat

Privately owned farms, ranches and forests provide much of the habitat for wildlife in the US. For more than 70 years, conservation districts have worked with landowners and communities to restore habitat, improve water quality, and protect vital wildlife resources. These actions benefit not only wildlife but landowners, producers, hunters, anglers, and wildlife enthusiasts. 

CD’s often provide funding, technical resources and even manual labor to help implement conservation projects. 

Project Example: The Snohomish Conservation District in Washington State runs a Habitat Restoration Program to help landowners manage natural resource challenges on their property while improving habitat for local wildlife. The Polestar Farm added native plants to streambanks and removed damaged culverts with the help of the district.

Invasive Species Removal

Invasive species or noxious weeds negatively impact native species, and habitats while compromising the integrity of ecosystems, and local economies. CDs help landowners make responsible weed management decisions and provide tips, tools and support for removal projects.

Conservation district partnerships can help address gaps in management. Invasive weeds don’t pay attention to property lines. Public land managers will often treat a weed only for it to be re-infested by a neighboring property on private land. Conservation districts can step in and work with private landowners to address this challenge.”

– Lindsey Karr, Invasive Plant Specialist, Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District, Oregon

Project Example: The Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District in Oregon is currently working on a Goatsrue Eradication Project. The noxious weed is toxic to livestock and spreads voraciously. The District is working to remove over 14 infested acres, the largest concentration in the state.

Water Use & Quality

Conservation districts provide landowners with the tools they need to protect water from sediment runoff, nutrients and other contaminants. District staff work to prevent and mitigate the effects of drought, advance the restoration of dams and reservoirs and improve the management of stormwater.

“Currently in Monroe County, PA we are focusing our efforts on improving water quality research and updating the county’s Act 167 Stormwater Management Plan. Through our partnerships with other state and local agencies we endeavor to make changes that have real impacts in our communities. On an average day you can find our staff inspecting active construction sites to ensure environmental compliance, educating children about the natural world, or assisting watershed volunteers in planting a streamside riparian buffer to improve water quality.”

Kristina Heaney, District Manager Monroe County Soil and Water Conservation District – Pennsylvania

Example Project: The Monroe County Soil and Water Conservation District in Pennsylvania is working on a new model for stormwater management in their region. The new model will implement more nonstructural water control measures like floodplains.

Urban Environment

Conservation districts also provide technical and educational assistance to urban property owners and communities. A variety of projects help protect and improve the urban environment. Some examples are listed below:

  Rain gardens

♦  Tree planting and management

♦  Green roofs

♦  Invasive species management

♦  Impervious surface removal

♦  Stormwater management

♦  Permeable pavement installation

♦  Small acreage farming

♦  Soil interpretation-protection

♦  Urban erosion and sediment control

♦  Rainwater harvesting

♦  Bioretention


Definition: Bioretention removes contaminants and sedimentation from stormwater runoff by using organic filters like grass buffer strips, sand beds, and ponding areas.


Example Project: The Summit Soil and Water Conservation District in Ohio runs a Backyard Conservation program to help community members start composts, implement rain gardens and understand how their own backyard can support the greater ecosystem. 

Organizational Roles

Now that we have reviewed what conservation districts do, let’s look at the staff positions that conduct this critically important work. 

While job titles and responsibilities can vary by organization, we outline some common roles. 

If you are interested in working for a district, this will show you the types of positions available and a typical career pathway.

“At Sonoma RCD, we have the privilege of supporting conservation and resilience efforts in one of the most beautiful and ecologically-rich places in the world. We do this by working with people, and that’s what makes our team special: they are individuals with strong technical backgrounds who at the same time are wholeheartedly dedicated to helping the people in our community. It’s a special mix, and it makes our jobs very rewarding!”

– Valarie Minton Quinto Executive Director, Sonoma Resource Conservation District – California


Role: Technicians work in both the office and outdoors. In the field, they measure and collect resource data – sometimes under harsh conditions. Technicians perform site visits, interact with landowners and provide technical support. These positions are often an entry point for early-stage professionals with a BS degree with an environmental, geographic, or agricultural major. 

Education & Outreach Specialist

Role: This position helps organize and implement outreach efforts to promote district programs and projects. They build public awareness and understanding of natural resource issues. Tasks could include organizing workshops, developing and implementing outreach initiatives, and creating educational and outreach materials like brochures and newsletters. Staff in these positions often have an environmental background and experience in education or communications.

Resource Specialist

Role: Resource Specialists (also called conservation planners, specialists, coordinators or associates) provide technical assistance and work one-on-one with individual landowners. Many are certified by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service during on-the-job training. This certification training is valuable to both the employee and the district they serve as it enables them to teach, develop and implement the best conservation practices. The specialist evaluates natural resources (soil, water, animal, plant, wildlife, and cultural resources) and develops creative solutions. 

Program Manager

Role: In general, CD’s assign a program manager to each conservation focus area. These professionals manage a team of specialists, schedule projects, create budgets and craft work plans for their area of expertise. Another important role of the program manager is to secure project funding. Program Managers often have 5+ years of experience in conservation and a Master’s degree in a relevant field. 

Executive Director

Role: As the leader and public face of a community conservation district, the executive director supervises the technical and support staff. Reporting to the district board of directors, the executive director helps set the vision and strategy of the organization while overseeing the financial management and establishing key partnerships. Executive directors often have many years of experience in the conservation field and an advanced degree.

“What I like most about working for a Soil and Water Conservation District is the ability to work with local landowners and government to make an immediate difference for the quality and sustainability of our natural resources. Much of our work still takes years to see progress but you still get those opportunities to work with a willing landowner or agency and implement something that makes a difference for our future.”

-Jennifer Fish, Director of Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District (Columbus, OH)


Alyson Morris is the Communications Specialist for CJB Network and writes on environmental career development. She is a graduate student at the University of Oregon and is pursuing her Master’s in Strategic Communication.