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Pennsylvania Local Governments May Support Land Trusts

In Pennsylvania, local governments may give money, land and easements to land trusts.

What may be given to land trusts?

If the governing body of a Pennsylvania local government unit deems it to be for the public benefit, it may:

  • appropriate money to a land trust “for the acquisition or conservation and preservation of interests in real property for the purpose of achieving open space benefits”; and
  • “transfer open space property interests to a land trust.” No bidding is required, nor is payment by the land trust. The governing body may “elect to accept any nominal consideration for the transfer it deems appropriate,” for example, a dollar.[1]

Which local governments may make the transfers?

Local government units that may make such transfers to land trusts include:

  • a county or a county authority having among its purposes for which it was created the achieve-ment of an open space benefit;
  • a city, borough, township or any similar general purpose unit of local government;
  • any unit created by joint action of two or more local government units…” [2]

Intergovernmental cooperation

If a local governing board wants to appropriate money to a land trust for open space protection within the boundaries of another local government unit, it must do so in accordance with an intergovernmental cooperation agreement between the government units.


Through 2006, uncertainty existed as to the legality of local governments supporting land trusts financially or transferring property to them. Some land trusts and local governments had formed relationships but the absence of clear statutory authorization and cumbersome workarounds used to address this lack led others to not form relationships.

The General Assembly eliminated the problem with the passage of House Bill 183 (printer’s no. 4383),[3] which amended Pennsylvania’s open space law [4] to add an entirely new section authorizing local government support of land trusts (Section 11.1). Governor Rendell signed the bill into law as Act 154 of 2006 on November 29, 2006.


[1]Act of January 19, 1968, (1967 P.L.992, No.442), as amended, Section 11.1 Land Trusts.

[2] Section 2. Definitions. (5) “Local government unit.”

[3]Representative Chris Ross (R) of Chester County introduced and championed the legislation in the General Assembly. The bill passed the Senate 49-0 and the House 196-0.

[4]Pennsylvania’s open space law, “Preserving Land for Open Air Spaces Act of January 19, 1968, (1967 P.L.992, No.442),” authorizes “the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the local government units thereof to preserve, acquire or hold land for open space uses.”


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WeConservePA (formerly known as Pennsylvania Land Trust Association)
Loza authored this guide and assisted with the development of what became Act 154 of 2006.

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Pennsylvania Act 154 of 2006 facilitates local government partnerships with land trusts. Act 154 was passed unanimously by both the Senate and House, then signed into law by the Governor on November 29, 2006. (The act amends Pennsylvania's open space law.)
As amended through 2013, an act authorizing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the local government units thereof to preserve, acquire or hold land for open space uses. It is the purpose of this act to clarify and broaden the existing methods by which the Commonwealth and its local government uni…


Andrew M. Loza authored the guide.

The Pennsylvania Land Trust Association published this guide with support from the William Penn Foundation, the Colcom Foundation and the Community Conservation Partnerships Program, Environmental Stewardship Fund, under the administration of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Recreation and Conservation.


Nothing contained in this or any other document available at is intended to be relied upon as legal advice or to create an attorney-client relationship. The material presented is generally provided in the context of Pennsylvania law and, depending on the subject, may have more or less applicability elsewhere. There is no guarantee that it is up to date or error free.