Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Environmental Studies Program


Philip J. Nyhus

Second Advisor

F. Russell Cole

Third Advisor

Gail Carlson


Land trusts have led the recent, rapid expansion in private land conservation in the US. As they have grown, many questions have emerged as to the value of their conservation efforts, especially in the long-term. To address this data gap, studies have evaluated easement restrictions and the characteristics of land trust protected property. I take a novel approach by investigating the data that land trusts record about their protected properties and its impact on their capacity to protect conservation values. I surveyed 55 land trusts operating in Maine about data they record in baseline documentation reports. A majority (82%) had a baseline report, and a majority (55.6%) of those applied it to both conservation easements and fee owned land. Land trusts required very different types of data to be recorded on baseline reports: no variables were required by all and only three were required by more than 75%. Land trusts also tended to require relatively coarse resolution or administrative variables more often than higher resolution, ecological variables. Land trusts that identified “wildlife habitat or important biodiversity features” as their primary priority had more standardized data requirements than other types of trusts; however, the trend of decreased recording with increased resolution remained. My findings suggest that the aggregate Maine land trust community is not well suited to conduct landscape scale analyses that require synthesis of standardized ecological data. Recording of invasive species was particularly unlikely. Collectively, land trusts in the US now protect enough property to impact entire landscapes, and their influence is growing. If Maine land trusts are representative of land trusts nationwide, as I suggest, then I recommend that recording practices mandated by the Land Trust Alliance should be reconsidered to develop reasonable data standardization requirements.


land trust, Maine, conservation easement, baseline, data recording