Efforts to protect and preserve private farms, ranches and forests from industrial and residential development is apparently making a difference across the country's landscape.

A report from the national Land Trust Alliance says there has been a 54 percent increase in the amount of acres protected since 2000. The organization conducts a census every five years. Land now under protective trusts and easements now totals 37 million acres.

The alliance says about as much land is preserved each year as is lost to development. USA Today reports conservation of private lands between 2000 and 2005 averages 2.6 million acres per year.

There are an estimated 1,667 local, state and national land trusts, including one in Norman.

Much of the growth comes from local and state land conservation groups, mostly run by volunteers. The newspaper says the biggest vehicle for protecting land is a conservation easement which gives a property owner a tax credit and allows them to continue growing crops or raising livestock.

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