Acquiring a conservation easement on a property is the beginning of a lifelong relationship. VHCB funds help land trusts purchase land or development rights, thereby protecting working lands, natural resources, and recreational assets that may otherwise be threatened by development.
Conservation easements exist in perpetuity; while the land may be bought and sold between many owners, the easement stays on the land, protecting the values for which the property was conserved. Landowners and land trusts are thereby legally bound in a relationship, working together to ensure that the land is managed in a way that honors the original intent of the easement.
Land trust staff play an important educational role in helping landowners understand what activities are and are not allowed on conserved land. These staff, called “stewards,” visit conserved properties annually to meet with landowners, walk the property, answer questions, and ensure that the activities occurring on the property are consistent with the easement. They are also responsible for documenting the conditions of the property at the time of conservation, thereby establishing a “baseline condition” to which all future site visits are compared.
VHCB holds or co-holds easements on over 680 farms, 325 natural areas and recreational properties and 67 historic preservation projects. The majority of easements are co-held with non-profit conservation partners, and 156 are held solely by VHCB. Our conservation partners assume primary stewardship responsibilities on our co-held easements, while VHCB staff have sole stewardship responsibility for sole-held easements. VHCB typically assumes sole-held easements on lands that our conservation partners own.
Agricultural Easements: The majority of VHCB easements are on agricultural lands and are designed to protect important farmland while permitting commercial agricultural ventures. VHCB partners with either Vermont Land Trust or the Upper Valley Land Trust to co-hold and steward agricultural easements. In addition to our non-profit partners, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets is an easement co-holder on many farm easements. Public access is not typically protected on privately-owned agricultural lands.
Conservation Easements: These easements include important natural areas, parks, recreation areas and historic or archaeological properties. VHCB co-holds these easements with a variety of partners, including The Nature Conservancy, the Vermont River Conservancy, the Lake Champlain Land Trust, the Trust for Public Land, and others. All historic and archaeological easements are co-held with the Preservation Trust of Vermont. Public access is typically protected in these conservation easements, and is often an important attribute of the land being conserved.
Recent Success Stories
Notes from the Field: Stewarding Conservation Easements
In the context of conservation easements, everything happens for a reason. Each plot of land that VHCB helps protect serves a unique function. Some harbor threatened flora or fauna; some grant grand vistas or display delicate ecosystems; and some provide recreational opportunities such as swimming holes or town parks. The conservation easement protects the land’s character, and our boots-on-the-ground summer field visits maintain the integrity of our legal interest.