Good practices for private land conservation organisations

This guide is meant as a practical reference for private land conservationists in Europe. The purpose of this guide is to collect relevant practices and standards in private land conservation. We aimed to create a “living document” that allows for continuous updates, amendments, and additions. We hope to compile collective knowledge and expertise, to fill knowledge gaps and to propose good practice recommendations based on our and your expertise.

What is Private Land Conservation This section discusses key terminology used in private land conservation.

Land Stewardship

Land stewardship is a strategy to involve landowners and land users in the conservation of their properties. It usually comes in the form of a contractual or informal voluntary agreement between the landowner and the land stewardship organisation to take care of the target habitats and species on the property.

Conservation Agreement

Conservation agreements are voluntary contractual tools that can either transfer land use rights/competencies relevant for conservation from a landowner to an NGO (e.g. in the form of a stewardship agreement) or restrict uses of land owned for conservation purposes when it is leased to an external party (conservation lease contracts). We use the term “conservation agreement” as umbrella for various forms of contractual agreements between landowners and third parties (mostly conservation NGOs, but also public entities).

Conservation Agriculture

Conservation Agriculture is a farming system that promotes minimum soil disturbance (i.e. no tillage), maintenance of a permanent soil cover, and diversification of plant species. It enhances biodiversity and natural biological processes above and below the ground surface, which contribute to increased water and nutrient use efficiency and to improved and sustained crop production (FAO). Conservation agriculture may also be referred to as regenerative agriculture or agroecology.

Land Trust

A land Trust is a non-profit organisation that, as all or part of its mission, actively works to conserve land by undertaking or assisting in land or conservation easement acquisition, or by its stewardship of such land or easements. Land Trusts work with landowners and the community to conserve land by accepting donations of land, purchasing land, negotiating private, voluntary conservation agreements on land, and stewarding conserved land through the generations to come. (Land Trust Alliance 2016) The land trust “function” of an organisation is about acting as a custodian of a property or use rights (e.g. through easements or contracts) while the stewardship “function” (see land stewardship) is about the active management/maintenance/monitoring of a property, providing technical assistance to a landowner. Both parties agree that the organization can carry out some of these tasks on the private property.

Running a private land conservation organisation. Here we are discussing those elements which are relevant from an administration perspective when running a PLC organisation including topics such as communication, human resources and strategic planning. 

The business model canvas is a well-known tool to visualise the building blocks of a business. This template has been updated to fit private land conservation organisations. Using this tool helps to get a basic understanding of the setup of your organisation and how you are creating value for nature AND donors. The canvas can be applied by answering the questions in each section for your organisation. As a result, your ‘business’ model is laid out in a straightforward and structured way. It will provide insights on the key elements of an organisation 

Private land conservation organisations are in essence multi-sided businesses, meaning that the users and the customers are not the same. Users are the beneficiaries of the conservation work whilst customers could be considered your donors. The main difference between a traditional business and a Private Land Conservation organisation is that instead of buying or selling a good or service you strive to provide a social good. Impact is the currency of your organisation. 

More to come soon...