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Open space

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Americans wishing to protect their property from development have turned to land trusts to preserve the land and maintain open spaces.

The Land Trust Alliance, a conservation group, said that 10 million acres have been set aside as urban parks, family farms, forest and gardens since 2005, USA Today reported. That represents 27 percent growth to 47 million acres protected against development in 2010. Several factors have combined to favor the use of land trusts, or nonprofit groups relying on charitable donations to preserve land.

Property owners concerned about climate change and global warming want to preserve their land as open space to lessen the impact of greenhouse gas emissions from development. Declining real estate values make it possible for trusts to purchase more land. A 2006 federal law encourages taxpayers to sell development rights on their land by granting larger tax deductions over a longer period of time. Trusts also have stronger local ties.

As a result, land trusts have been more successful than the federal government in recent years, according to the report. It said that trusts have experienced an increase in volunteers and endowment funding in contrast to the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has lost money and added about a half-million acres of land.

Instead of a mandate or other government intrusion on local decision-making, land trusts offer a private alternative that is also voluntary and should gain greater acceptance by being closer to the communities affected by the conservation efforts.

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