Land Trusts and Conservancies in California's Central Coast Region

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A Land Trust is an agreement whereby a trustee agrees to hold the title to property for the benefit of a beneficiary.[1] The beneficiary has the right to direct the trustee, based on the established agreement. There are two types of land trusts that operate as non-profit organizations: community land trusts and land conservancies. Community land trusts specialize on building assets for a community such as affordable housing, public gardens, and commercial spaces. Land conservancies aim to protect flora, fauna, and natural resources by purchasing and caring for land.[2]

Land trusts rely on donations and grants for land acquisition. Conservancies also accept and hold conservation easements that are donated or sold by landowners. A conservation easement is a voluntary, legally-binding agreement between landowner and land trust or government agency that permanently limits land use to protect its conservation.[3] [4]

California Code and Land Trust

There are no specific statutes that deal specifically with land trusts; however, there do exist codes that deal with trusts in general. The statutes for land trusts fall in the Probate Code of the California Codes, specifically section 15604, which deals with non-profit organizations being appointed as trustees. According to CA code, a land trust can be appointed a trustee if it: is located within state boundaries, is authorized to be a trustee, and has existed for three years as a non-profit. [5]

Public Land Trusts

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Figure 1. Geographic Boundaries of State Conservancies.

Public Land Conservancies are state funded agencies whose goals are to protect wildlife habitat. Public land trusts cannot be classified as non-profit organizations. In California, land conservancies fall under the control of the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB). California state conservancies will purchase land themselves or assist private land trust purchase land [6]. There are a total of ten public conservancies in California:

  • Baldwin Hills Conservancy
  • California Tahoe Conservancy
  • Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy
  • Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy
  • San Diego River Conservancy
  • San Gabriel & Lower Los Angeles Rivers & Mountains Conservancy
  • San Joaquin River Conservancy
  • Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy
  • Sierra Nevada Conservancy
  • California Coastal Conservancy

California Land Trusts

These land trusts and conservancies are actively working in California's Central Coast region.

Central Coast Organizations

Statewide Organizations

Regional and Nationwide Organizations



  1. Definition: Land Trust [1]
  2. Definition: Conservancy [2]
  3. Definition: Conservation Easement [3]
  4. The Nature Conservancy explains conservation easements
  5. California Probate Code Section 15604
  6. California State Conservancies


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