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  Main arrow Baikal Discovery Digest arrow Lake Baikal Ecology arrow A Community Land Trust for Lake Baikal  

A Community Land Trust for Lake Baikal



Summarised from 'Land – the challenge and the opportunity' by Susan Witt (March '93; EF Schumacher Society position paper, Box 76, RD3 Great Barrington, MA 01230 USA, tel 00 1 413 528 1737).




  'If we are to foster a culture of love and respect for land, land can no longer be an item to buy and sell on the market'

   Aldo Leopold, author of 'A Sand County Almanac' (1949), presented a bold challenge to environmentalists: if we are to foster a culture of love and respect for land, land can no longer be an item to buy and sell on the market. The Community Land Trust (CLT) concept, developed by the Schumacher Society's President, Robert Swann, offers a practical way to take land off the market and place it into a system of trusteeship on a region-by-region basis. It is a simple non profit-making organisation, with membership open to any resident of a geographical region or bioregion.
  The purpose of a CLT is to create a democratic regional institution to hold land and to capture the speculative value of the land for the benefit of the community. The effect of a broad-based CLT will be to provide more affordable access to land for housing, farming, small businesses and civic purposes. A CLT acquires land by gift or purchase, then develops a land-use plan for the parcel, identifying which lands should remain forever wild and which could support appropriate development without damaging the overall environment of the area. The land trust then leases the productive sites for the purposes determined. The lease runs ninety-nine years and is inheritable and renewable. The leaseholder owns the buildings and agricultural improvements on the land but not the land itself. At resale, the leaseholder is restricted to selling his or her buildings for their current replacement cost, excluding the land's market value from the transfer.
  The Schumacher Society plans to follow up on its Summer 1992 visit to  the farmers and officials of Olkhon by planning and implementing an Olkhon Community Land Trust to hold all the productive lands in the region. The Olkhon region on the west bank of Lake Baikal in Siberia is a geographically distinct region of 7,500 square miles. It is home to 50,000 ethnic Buryats, the indigenous people of the Lake's surrounding area. Traditionally shepherds, the Buryats are caught up in the dramatic changes sweeping the former Soviet Union.
The Olkhon CLT will provide for regional ownership through a democratically-structured organisation, will secure private-use rights for specified purposes, and will clarify ownership of buildings and land improvements. It will thus facilitate investment and necessary business development. The plan would (1) include a detailed land-use map for all the productive land; (2) provide leases to current users for development that is consistent with sound land stewardship; (3) provide bills of ownership for existing buildings and other improvements to the leaseholders; and (4) invite applications from residents to lease productive lands not currently in use.
  'A model for the peaceful decentralisation of a failed and crumbling nation-state'
  The urgency of this project is underscored by the ecological significance of this extraordinary lake (Baikal holds one-fifth of the Earth's fresh water); the still-strong roots of the Buryats in their traditional culture; the important model that the Community Land Trust can provide for fair distribution of land within a framework of concern for the region's ecology; and the important model that an Olkhon CLT can provide for the peaceful decentralisation of a failed and crumbling nation-state. But perhaps even more significant is that such a project, encompassing an entire region like Olkhon, can help us in the West to imagine what it would be like if all land were in a region freed from debt and freed from trading to the highest bidder: in short, freed to be a part of the 'community to which we belong.'

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