Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is land stewardship?
Land stewardship is a strategy that involves landowners and users in the conservation of nature and landscapes, with support and inputs from a wide range of civil society groups. Through voluntary agreements between land owners/users and land stewardship organisations (also known as land trusts), land stewardship is used in most of the world as a nature and biodiversity management and conservation tool.
2. What is the added value of the land stewardship approach in nature conservation?
Land stewardship provides an effective means of involving a wide range of stakeholders in direct participation in nature conservation, rural development and a local and green economy. Land stewardship also contributes to increasing social cohesion, for instance by volunteers helping farmers to manage landscape elements.
The stewardship approach also offers a means of extending conservation practices beyond the boundaries of conventionally protected areas led by governments and other institutions, and a lot of new opportunities to improve nature management while generating new economic activities in the countryside. Visit 'Benefits for people & nature' for more information.
Land stewardship also helps to achieve major nature conservation objectives by founding coordinated, sustainable cooperation between different actors, which will make management for, for instance Natura 2000 or green CAP measures, more effective.
3. Who may be interested in land stewardship?
Anyone can participate in some way. The land stewardship approach generally focuses on encouraging landowners —individuals and families as well as businesses, private institutions, municipalities and other organisations—, users —farmers, hunters, fishers—, citizens and all types of companies to participate in caring for our land. All can demonstrate their interest and responsibility for caring for nature and all the services that it provides. Visit 'Your role' for more information.
4. How is land stewardship put into practice?
Land stewardship is put into practice through voluntary agreements between land owners/users and land stewardship organisations. These agreements establish commitments from both the landowner and the stewardship organisation to maintain or restore the nature and landscape values of the property. After signing the agreement, the collaboration between the different parties begins. Monitoring is the instrument land stewardship organisations use to confirm that land stewardship is effective for the conservation of nature and landscape values. Visit 'Land stewardship agreements' for more information.
5. What is a land stewardship agreement? Who can sign it?
Land stewardship agreements are voluntary commitments by different parties that usually take the form of a written document (contract or convention). However in some cases they can also be made verbally. They usually involve a landowner and a stewardship organisation. However, sometimes more than one organisation or even more than one landowner can participate. Their contents vary from agreement to agreement and the duration can vary depending on the stewardship options selected. It is strongly recommended to establish an agreement that covers a long period of time (at least 6-10 years), as conservation measures only have good results if carried out for a longer period of time. Visit 'Land stewardship agreements' for more information. See also the 'Land Stewardship toolkit'.
6. Where can I find good examples of land stewardship practices?
7. How does land stewardship fit into the Natura 2000 network?
Land stewardship is a useful tool to involve landowners and civil society in the management of Natura 2000 sites. Land stewardship can be considered a form of ‘contractual measure’ (as referred to in Article 6 of the Habitats Directive) to conserve the habitats and the species within Natura 2000 sites. However, land stewardship also fits in with other European policies as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the rural development programmes. Visit 'European policies and land stewardship' for more information.
8. Public administrations and other institutions in my country already act to conserve nature and landscapes, so why should I do something as well?
Together we can work to make Europe’s landscapes even more beautiful! Success depends on individuals motivated to take the responsibility to improve environments and landscapes at local levels. Public administrations and other institutions focus their efforts on conventionally protected areas like parks, reserves and Natura 2000 sites. However, conservation needs can extend beyond the boundaries of protected areas, where the stewardship approach can be especially helpful to ensure ecological connectivity or conserve local values.
9. What is a land stewardship organisation?
Land stewardship organisations (or ‘Land Trusts’ in Common Law countries) work to reach and subsequently manage voluntary agreements with landowners and users. They can range from major foundations to small nature conservation associations, schools or groups of volunteers, even municipalities and county or regional administrations, provided that one of their goals is land conservation and they use land stewardship tools. While the main goals of traditional environmental groups are to denounce projects affecting the environment, to explain environmental problems to the public and to provide solutions and alternatives, they can also use land stewardship tools and become a land stewardship organisation as well.
10. I’m a landowner. Why should I take part in a land stewardship agreement, if I already take good care of my land?
Surely you take good care of your land, probably for a long period of time across generations. However, by signing an official agreement and joining a land stewardship organisation, you get access to a pool of advantages: volunteers that help manage your land, advice on natural heritage and specificities on your lands, monitoring experts (incl. volunteers) and market opportunities to obtain extra income. Remember that land stewardship is based on a voluntary basis. Visit 'Private landowners & land users' for more information.
11. As a landowner, what does land stewardship offer me?
Some intangible benefits of engaging within land stewardship can be deeply rewarding, such as a newly established connection with citizens and children especially (positive social interaction), showcasing your beautiful land to a wider audience, learning about plants and animals and broad appreciation for the work you do for nature and the landscape. There are also material benefits, including free-of-cost conservation actions or economic benefits. The most obvious are subsidies, incentives, exemptions or other compensation for taking certain actions. You can also make donations (depending on the tax rules in your country, you can ask for tax incentives for those donations) or in-kind contributions towards your land stewardship organisation to help them in their task. Visit 'Private landowners & land users' for more information.
12. I’m a landowner and I want to practice land stewardship. What should I do?
Try to find an already existing land stewardship organisation to support you. If there are none available, it might be an idea to find motivated people (individuals, neighbours, landowners, companies, public administrations, etc.) with whom you can start a land stewardship initiative yourself! Information about how to do that can be found on this website (check the 'Help desk' for the development of land stewardship initiatives and the 'Land Stewardship toolkit').
13. Are the lands under stewardship agreements always open to the public?
No. Access, for whom, when and what, is negotiable between the landowner and the land stewardship organisation, and it also may depend on the values to conserve, or the characteristics of the land. However, most organisations will want to explain to the citizens the value of the agreement. If the landowner agrees, they may suggest opening the lands to the public through guided tours, for example. However stewardship agreements on fragile lands can even restrict access, landowners with public oriented activity (tourism, etc.) may even benefit by encouraging access. See the Land Stewardship Manual - Caring together for nature for more information.
14. Is it possible to create land stewardship agreements in public areas?
Yes, it is possible. Town and city councils, public agencies and administrations can be substantial landowners of areas with natural, landscape and cultural values. In some cases, especially that of local administrations, they can benefit from advice and technical support from land stewardship organisations and use agreements as part of their land use. So, it’s common to have agreements with public agencies and administrations to perform nature management in public lands.
15. What if someone breaks a land stewardship agreement?
Normally, the consequences of this hypothetical situation are covered under the terms of the agreement. Certain legal forms of agreements (lease, will, donation, sale…) have specific previsions to deal with and resolve disputes. In any event, to deal with non-compliance it may prove useful to keep calm and try to find out among the parties or with support of a mediator why the agreement was not respected. See the 'Land Stewardship toolkit'.
16. How is land stewardship funded?
Land management and nature conservation can be financed through a wide variety of grants and public subsidies available to stewardship organisations and landowners in order to develop various actions included in stewardship agreements. On the other hand, land stewardship organisations finance their activities through membership and campaigns to obtain financial support from people and businesses and by landowners themselves. Other private investors in land stewardship are social investors, philanthropic individuals and private foundations. See the Land Stewardship Manual - Caring together for nature and the 'Land Stewardship toolkit' for more information.
17. How can I get involved in land stewardship?
As citizens, we have many ways of getting involved with land stewardship. As a landowner, you can discover land stewardship opportunities here. As a business, you can help develop land stewardship initiatives through many ways. If your non-profit organisation would like to act as a land stewardship organisation or plans to create one, please look here.
18. We are a conservation organisation or a group of people wanting to apply the land stewardship concept in our daily work. What should we do?
Anywhere in Europe, from the smallest group to the longest-standing conservation organisation, you can start using land stewardship tools anytime. As a first step, identify lands in which to intervene, and then contact the relevant landowners, negotiate and develop land stewardship agreements with them so they become actively engaged in the conservation of nature and landscapes. At the same time, try to network and learn from other land stewardship organisations through training activities, workshops, project visits, R+D+I projects, transnational cooperation, etc. Working with a well-prepared and trained professional or volunteer team will help you reach your land stewardship objectives. Of course, you also can benefit from LandLife tools and actions and learn how to implement land stewardship in your country.
19. What is LandLife?
LandLife is a project that aims to boost land stewardship as an effective and successful tool for nature and biodiversity conservation in Europe. The project is financed by the European Commission (LIFE+) and was officially launched on September 2011. Until December 2014, the five LandLife project partners (Xarxa de Custòdia del Territori, Conservatoire d'espaces naturels du Languedoc-Roussillon, Legambiente Lombardia, Eurosite and Prysma) will promote the land stewardship principles and will develop practical tools so that you can apply them in a natural area you care for.
20. How can LandLife help me?
If you are a land stewardship organisation, or a conservation organisation thinking about applying the land stewardship concept, the LandLife project offers you a wide range of tools to support implementation of this approach. The main tools are:
- The European Land Stewardship Manual - Caring together for nature;
- An online helpdesk for the development of land stewardship initiatives;
- A Land Stewardship toolkit;
- An online course;
- An interactive map to share experiences;
- The opportunity to participate in some events like regional workshops or the first European Land Stewardship Congress;
- A Comparative Study of the development and implementation of land stewardship in the Mediterranean Arc and Europe.