Proponents of maintaining the status quo of government (mis)management of public lands will criticize conservation land trusts. I welcome the criticism because it forces me to learn more about an alternative to National Park Service bureaucracy. Some critics feel that private, non-profit trusts will be more susceptible to pressure than the government. In short, they don't trust trusts to protect public land.
I searched for "conservation trust", and the search yielded 1.1 million results. There is a long list of non-governmental organizations that manage natural areas. The Nature Conservancy is a large international conservation trust organization:
Founded in 1951, The Nature Conservancy works in more than 30 countries, including all 50 states with an increasingly global reach. The Conservancy has almost one million members, has protected more than 69,000 square kilometers (17 million acres) in the United States and more than 473,000 square kilometers (117 million acres internationally. The organization's total support and revenue was $1,085,669,000 with assets totaling $4,828,494,000 as of 2006.While there is criticism of The Nature Conservancy, it achieves its goals, which is more than can be said of the stagnant leviathan federal bureaucracy. National parks and the NPS are in the headlines for mismanagement and political disputes far more than The Nature Conservancy or conservation trusts.
The Nature Conservancy rates as the most trusted organization in a 2006 poll by Harris Interactive. Forbes magazine rated The Nature Conservancy's fundraising efficiency at 88% in its 2005 survey of the largest U.S. charities. The Conservancy receives a four-star rating from Charity Navigator and was named by the organization as "One of the Ten of the Best Charities Everyone's Heard Of." Source.
Smaller independent and decentralized trusts, each community-based, would not run into the pitfalls of a much larger organization. According to Karl Hess, Jr., the essential feature of a conservation trust is to reconnect people to their environment, and "eliminating the layers of bureaucracy and political organization that separate caretakers from their charge would be the first step in reconnecting people to the land."
A century of government monopoly and control of our natural treasures has endangered what it was supposed to protect. It's time for a change. Conservation trusts are not an experiment; they have a long track record of proven success.
I look forward to the day I visit a national park and see the sign: WELCOME TO YOUR NATIONAL PARK - A CONSERVATION TRUST