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Recently I wrote that, in the future, private land management will play an enormous role for conservation in China. Things move fast in China, and today, the future is here.

In partnership with the Chinese government and local communities, The Bank of America Charitable Foundation and The Nature Conservancy are piloting a new model of conservation, something we are calling a Land Trust Reserve. A $1 million grant from Bank of America will jump-start an initiative that can boost conservation in central China by introducing the country to a distinctly Conservancy-style approach to land protection.

Here’s how it works. China has established nearly 2,500 parcels of land as nature reserves, but many of these lack adequate protection. Land Trust Reserves allow local conservation NGOs to essentially become land trusts — by securing long-term leases on ecologically important forestland surrounding these reserves, these NGOs can augment and expand the protection reserves already provide.

If successful, these Land Trust Reserves will advance conservation in several important ways.

• They’ll buffer existing parks and connect nature reserves, creating crucial wildlife corridors that preserve natural habitat for China’s animals.
• They’ll make land management more sustainable while allowing local communities to pursue environmentally friendly livelihoods.
• They’ll create sustainable financing for land stewardship and increase the visibility of forests in a country where assets in the war on climate change are invaluable.
• And they’ll bring the private sector into conservation, giving local people, businesses and individuals a chance to help advance the conservation agenda in China. 
The first Land Trust Reserves will be created in Sichuan Province’s Pingwu County next year. We’ll have a Conservation Action Plan completed by the end of 2011 that will ensure all actions taken within these first reserves will have sustainable benefits for both people and nature. And we plan on establishing a second set of similar reserves in 2012.

Land Trust Reserves offer up a twist on the tried-and-true conservation approach — buying land to protect it — that the Conservancy has been using in the United States for six decades.  In China, that approach has been made possible by regulatory shifts that have occurred over the past five years.

We’re grateful that Bank of America is joining with us to make this historical development possible.

Thanks to help from our partners, we have a chance to fundamentally alter the way the world’s most populous country goes about conserving its natural resources.

— Text by Charles BedfordCool Green Science Blog