As we go farther down the trail describing Conservation Easements, let’s look at what they look like. For review, a conservation easement (CE) is a voluntary legal agreement to protect a property’s conservation values—its forest, farmland, wetlands, scenic vistas, clean water, etc—by permanently restricting specified land uses that would damage those features.
It starts with the “Whereas” clauses that establish the justification for the CE. For example, separate clauses might say, “Whereas the Property has—a high quality forest; productive farmland; is part of a wildlife corridor; has rare plants and animals; is identified in a land protection plan; will provide benefits to the public; etc.” Then it concludes with “therefore the parties enter into this conservation easement.”
The “Purpose” clause comes next and it’s the most important part of the CE because it articulates the purpose of the CE—namely to protect the “conservation values” which include plants, animals, natural communities, farmland, rivers, wetlands, etc and/or the agricultural use, forest management, or wildland features of the Property. It’s important because questions about the CE are referred back to its purpose.
Then the easement says what the landowner can’t do like build houses everywhere, dump trash, plow too close to steams, remove the top soil, etc. That’s followed by what the landowner can do—build a specified number of houses in designated locations, manage timber using best forest management practices, farm using sound agricultural practices, sell or lease the property, install solar panels, etc.
Next is what the land trust, which holds the easement, can do. This includes entering the property with proper notice to monitor compliance with the CE, enforcing the easement, and for some properties, building a trail.
Finally, the last part of the CE describes administrative procedures like how the parties contact each other, make requests for specified actions, and amend the easement. Also, what to do if the easement is extinguished, property sold to another person, or a third party damages the property.
Then there’s the signature page followed by the legal description and maps. That’s about it—a simplified explanation of a 15+ page document.
Mark your calendars for Saturday, May 14 when we’ll host the GRAND HIKE to the Essex Inn – a CATS hamlet-to-hamlet hike followed by the celebratory BLOCK PARTY. This year we will start in Wadhams, across from the Dogwood Bread Company and hike about 12 miles, first on the new Wadhams Heights, Long Valley and Art Farm Trails, and then on more familiar trails to the Essex Inn for the block party. We’re still working out the details—expect to start in the early afternoon and arrive in Essex between 4:00 and 6:00. Stay tuned for more information! In the meantime, write “CATS Grand Hike to the Essex Inn” for May 14 on your calendar. And invite your friends to join you on this hamlet-to-hamlet hike.
On Saturday, March 19 we have two trail activities:
1. Sign up your children (ages 5 to 9) for Erin Hall’s “Design Your Dream Trail” workshop (details on our website).
2. Join the 3rd Saturday of the month Trail Project from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. More details later.
CATS Executive Director
- Local Examples of Conservation Easements (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- What is a Conservation Easement? (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Champlain Area Trails Honors Founding Member Bruce Klink (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Where is the Split Rock Wildway? (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- CATS Receives New Land (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)