Once a conservation project is complete, the relationship between a landowner and the Land Trust is just beginning. Since conservation easements are permanent, we are responsible for ensuring that each property’s conservation values – such as agricultural, wildlife habitat, open space – are protected forever.
The Stewardship Program ensures that the landowner’s wishes, the public trust and the land trust’s responsibilities are upheld. This is done is a number of ways:
- Annual monitoring, which is done by staff and dedicated volunteers. Every conservation easement is visited each year, preferably with the landowner’s participation. The current status and any changes are documented with a report and photos. While it is a large commitment of time and resources, it is also provides an opportunity to answer questions, build relationships and share the successes we have accomplished together.
- Maintaining regular contact and relationships with landowners. This includes help with any questions, interpretations and exercising any rights they may have reserved, such as building a house or a barn. Many landowners undertake projects that enhance their property such as habitat improvement/restoration or adding infrastructure that improves efficiency or productivity of their farming and ranching activities.
- Compliance with funder, IRS, partner, accreditation and state requirements ensures we operate at the highest standards and maintain the public trust.
- A Stewardship Fund is also maintained through contributions from landowner and other donors to cover the costs of the program and to defend conservation easements, if need be. This is critical to ensuring that conservation easements truly are permanent.
It is a privilege to work with so many landowners and ranch/farm managers who are committed stewards of their land. Our annual visits give us a chance to learn more about their history, family stories and plans for the future on these beautiful places we have conserved together.