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Land Trust Services

In 2013, Openlands was accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance. As an accredited land trust, we apply best practices in land protection transactions and offer decades of experience in conserving the green spaces of the Chicago wilderness region for all to enjoy.

Conservation Easements

Landowners who want to protect all or certain portions of their land can donate a conservation easement to Openlands. We ensure that defined restrictions continue to govern land use and protect the conservation values forever.

The conservation easement’s purposes will vary depending on the character of the particular property and the needs of the landowners. An easement’s purposes, often called conservation objectives, might include any one or more of the following:

  • Maintain and improve water quality;
  • Perpetuate and foster the growth of healthy forest;
  • Maintain and improve wildlife habitat and migration corridors;
  • Protect scenic vistas visible from roads and other public areas; or
  • Ensure that lands are managed so that they are always available for sustainable agriculture and forestry.

Each conservation easement’s terms will vary, but often restrict subdivision and limit new buildings to areas that will not impact the conservation objectives. The conservation easement “runs with the land,” meaning it is applicable to both present and future owners of the land. As with other real property interests, the grant of conservation easement is recorded in the local land records; the grant becomes a part of the chain of title for the property. Openlands also works on behalf of landowners who are interested in conveying a conservation easement to another organization. We serve as advisors and consultants, guiding the landowner through the process, helping to negotiate terms, and answering questions along the way.


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Land Acquisition and Planning

Openlands advances regional land conservation in key priority areas throughout Northeastern Illinois and beyond. We do this through building strategic partnerships; supporting planning efforts and offering technical assistance; engaging elected officials and empowering advocates; and in the most direct way, buying key parcels of land and ensuring they are permanently protected as open space, wildlife habitat, trails, parks and other community assets. Key focus areas of our current efforts include the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge, the bi-state Calumet Region, the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie‘s Prairie Parklands macrosite, and the Forest Preserves of Cook County.

As a technical assistance provider, Openlands provides a wide range of comprehensive real estate services:

  • Negotiating and structuring innovative and cost-effective transactions
  • Arranging and managing the due diligence process, including appraisals, environmental site assessments, and title and land survey work
  • Providing interim financing and serving as an interim landowner

Over the past thirty years, Openlands has assisted nearly 100 government entities—including the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), the Forest Preserve District of Will County, Lockport Township Park District, as well as many cities, villages, and townships—in preserving public open space.

For more information, please contact landpreservation@openlands.org or call 312.863.6274.


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  • Openlands can move at the speed of any private buyer to purchase land.
  • Openlands has specialized expertise to negotiate and acquire land for government entities for use as open space.
  • As a not-for-profit organization, Openlands can be the beneficiary of bargain sales and other means that ensure the lowest possible purchase price.
  • Openlands can hold the land on your behalf—up to three years—while you assemble funding.
  • Openlands can provide interim financing and lease the property to you so that you have immediate use of the site.
  • Openlands can assemble multiple parcels, including land secured from tax sales, to form large open space