We’ve talked about what a conservation easement (CE) is, provided some examples, discussed working forest/farm easements and forever wild easements, and what is in an easement. For those wondering what is still to come, we’ll get into monitoring easements, the cost of easements, funding that helps land trusts acquire easements, tax benefits of donated easements, and how cooperation between land trusts facilitate protecting land with easements.
Now let’s look at a condensed summary of the process to protect land with a CE. First, the landowner, the land trust, or someone has the idea to save a piece of land. Next, the landowner and land trust meet to tour the property and discuss its features, their respective goals, the CE process, the costs, the need to have separate legal representation, and if the owner will sell or donate the CE.
Then they talk about and reach agreement on present and future land uses including the number and locations of future houses. The Land Trust fits all this into the appropriate CE template which is then shown to the lawyers. Meanwhile, the Land Trust gets its board’s approval, has the property appraised, and if needed, contracts for a survey, especially if there is a need to define areas where buildings may be built. After what can be lengthy discussions to finalize the wording of the easement, the two parties agree on the CE.
Because the Land Trust’s long-term role is to ensure compliance with the CE, it documents the condition of the Property as it enters into the CE. So, it develops a “Baseline Documentation Report” (BDR), which describes the Property’s “present condition” in relation to the terms of the CE. So, if the CE says “one house can be built in the now empty northeast corner of the Property,” the BDR would say “no building is now located there.” If the CE says agricultural activity must be 50 feet from a creek, the BDR would say “farming is taking place and the 50-foot buffer is in place.”
When the parties have agreed on the CE and the Baseline Report, they conclude the transaction and, hooray(!), another wonderful Champlain Valley property and its natural, agricultural, and scenic values are protected.
Saturday, March 19, is the Third Saturday of the Month trail project at Sophie’s Lair Trail in Willsboro. Join Bill Amadon at Florence Hathaway Park on Rt. 22 at 9:00 a.m. to build boardwalks over some wet areas. Sophie’s Lair Trail is almost done and you can help finish it in time for the trail’s official opening! Bring water and a snack or lunch and plan to work until 1:00 p.m. Please email us (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call the office (518-962-2287) to let us know if you plan to come.
Also on March 19, is the workshop, “Design Your Dream Trail” for children 5 to 9 years old at the Erin Hall Studio in Westport. This workshop will be from 10:00 to 11:15 a.m. Children will create, design, and illustrate their very own trail map. They will have an opportunity to share stories about what they think makes a great trail. Click here to register.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS for the Grand Hike to the Essex Inn on Saturday, May 14. More information will be coming soon!
CATS Executive Director