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The United States prides itself on the beauty and expanse of our national parks – but although thousands of acres of precious American wilderness are protected by the National Park Service, a new census shows that private citizens are protecting twice as much land.

Over 58 million acres of land in the lower 48 states are owned by state, local, and national land trusts, which is 9 million more than 2010, according to the Land Trust Alliance. Land trusts are powers that are held by nonprofit organizations and governments that agree to help manage and conserve property through a conservation easement. Conservation easements can be managed by the landowner to allow certain privileges with his or her land, such as allowing it to be open to the public or protecting certain aspects of the land.

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The easements also ensure that the lands are protected during future generations, no matter who purchases or inherits the property.

Despite land trusts putting their focus on conserving important wildlife habitats, water quality, and working farms, the precious protected areas have also provided valuable recreational activities that might usually only be enjoyed at national parks.

Over 6.2 million visitors were allowed access to the lands to enjoy scenic vistas, hiking, fishing, and biking since 2015.

“Land trusts are in a position to address many of society’s ills,” says Andrew Bowman, president of the Land Trust Alliance, in a statement concerning the census. “How do we stem a national health crisis and provide opportunities for people to exercise and recreate? Land is the answer. How do we secure local, healthy and sustainable food? Land is the answer. And land even has a role to play in mitigating climate change.”

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  1. It’s good to know that there are people willing to share the good of the earth to other good people, while protecting the land for the future. Good and beautiful earth, without human spoiling, is a gift of God, our creator!

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