Frequently Asked Questions


What is a "land trust"?

Land Trusts are local, regional or national non-profit organizations directly engaged in the protection of important land for the public benefit, including public use, as well as habitat and resource protection. Local land trusts are able to respond to the unique conservation needs of their community.


How many land trusts are there?

There are approximately 1,700 land trusts in the US.  They have collectively protected approximately 47 million acres of land nationwide. By preserving family farms, ranches, scenic vistas, endangered habitat, historic sites, forests and open space, land trusts safeguard local traditions and lifestyles that would otherwise be threatened by conversion to other uses, including developed land.


What is the mission of Desert Foothills Land Trust?

Desert Foothills Land Trust connects people to nature by working with communities and partners to conserve and steward sensitive lands and species for the survival of our fragile Sonoran Desert.


Where does Desert Foothills Land Trust work?

Desert Foothills Land Trust protects and stewards land in an area north of Phoenix known as “The Desert Foothills,” including the communities of Cave Creek, Carefree, North Scottsdale, North Phoenix, Anthem, Desert Hills and New River. The Desert Foothills region is characterized by lush Sonoran Desert habitat and contains two major water courses – Cave Creek and New River – with extensive desert riparian habitat.  Our conservation interest also extends to the nearby Tonto National Forest.


What are the programs and activities of Desert Foothills Land Trust?

The Land Trust accomplishes its mission through three primary activities:

  • Land Protection – acquiring interests (fee simple and conservation easement) in important conservation land through purchase and donation, and partnering with other agencies and organizations to support and encourage land protection initiatives.

  • Land Stewardship – managing the land it owns, and monitoring and defending land under its conservation easements.

  • Community Engagement – advocating for the protection of open space and engaging the community in land protection efforts, including providing access to our protected lands where appropriate.


How does the Land Trust protect property?

Our approach to land conservation is direct and highly effective – we acquire and protect the most special natural areas in our community. The Land Trust uses natural resource data, mapping technology, and local experts to proactively identify important natural areas in our community. We work with landowners, public agencies and other partners to secure the permanent protection of these lands through fee simple donations or purchases or through conservation easements. 


What is a conservation easement?

Conservation easements are voluntary, permanent legal agreements in which a landowner agrees to restrict some of the uses of the property, including development activities. The property remains in private ownership but use of the property is guided by the terms of the easement, which is crafted to meet the needs of the landowner, Land Trust, and the conservation values of the property. The conservation easement is recorded and the development restrictions included in it “run with the property” and survive changes in ownership. Landowners who donate qualifying conservation easements or fee simple property may be eligible for income or estate tax benefits. The Land Trust is then responsible for ensuring the terms of the easement are upheld in perpetuity.


What provisions has the Land Trust made to protect its holdings in perpetuity?

The terms of conservation easements and the conditions under which nature preserves are accepted or acquired by the Land Trust ensure the protection of these resources in perpetuity. To ensure our long-term capacity to manage and protect our conservation lands, the Land Trust has built a restricted Stewardship Endowment Fund to provide a stream of funding for our land stewardship activities. Our goal is to fully fund the endowment required for each property within one year of its acquisition.


Can land held by Desert Foothills Land Trust be sold?

Land accepted by the Land Trust for conservation purposes will not be sold, and it will remain in protected status in perpetuity.  Land protected by conservation easements may be sold or otherwise conveyed by the landowners, but the conservation easement terms remain in place for subsequent landowners.  Additionally, donors may donate land or other property to the Land Trust with the intention that we sell the property and use the proceeds to further our conservation mission.  The Land Trust will assess the conservation value of these “trade lands.”  If they are not deemed appropriate for conservation and the donors have not restricted their use, the property may be sold.   Recent trade land examples have included condominiums and undeveloped lots.  


Who has access to property owned by Desert Foothills Land Trust?

We make every effort to provide public access to our preserved properties. However, property donors occasionally restrict access to land that has been donated fee simple or as a conservation easement. In other instances, land may be too ecologically sensitive for some recreational uses. Specific access permission is outlined on the website for each preserve.


What is the Land Trust’s commitment to property donors? What about the neighbors bordering the preserves?

The Land Trust must abide by any legally binding conditions placed by a donor on the donated property. We will only accept property if we are able to comply with these requirements and desires of the donor. At the same time, we want the neighboring property owners and the community at large to enjoy our preserves. We will work cooperatively with all groups to achieve harmonious use of the conserved property.


What is the Land Trust's commitment to the community?

Our 501(c)(3) nonprofit status requires that we provide public benefit. Within the bounds of our mission and the requirements of donors, our properties are available for public use whenever possible. The fulfillment of our goals depends on financial and volunteer support from the communities we serve. Additionally we work to foster partnerships with local government and other nonprofit organizations to enable us to preserve the natural resources and beautiful landscapes of our area.


What is the Land Trust’s policy on development and land use issues?

Our policy is to neither support nor object to development and land use issues unless the there is significant risk to conservation resources, including our protected lands. 


Who makes up the Desert Foothills Land Trust Board of Directors?

The Board currently consists of 10 volunteer members and is comprised of directors drawn from the communities we serve. Board members are elected at the Annual Meeting and serve an initial term of three years, with the option of continuing to serve one-year terms after their initial term.