Pelican Coast Conservancy

 

Conservation Easements

The most current tool in the land protection arsenal is the conservation easement. A conservation easement is a legal encumbrance sometimes including a transfer of usage rights which creates an enforceable land preservation agreement between a landowner and a qualified land protection organization (often called a "land trust"), or a government agency (municipality, county, state, federal), for the purposes of conservation. It restricts real estate development, commercial and industrial uses, and certain other activities on a property to a mutually agreed upon level. The property remains the private property of the landowner.

The first step in the creation of a conservation easement is preparing a baseline documentation report. This report is a collection of maps, photographs, and written descriptions of the property, its natural resources, and the conservation values that are being protected. It is meant to serve as a reference that all future monitoring efforts will compare in order to determine if any unacceptable changes have occurred. 

By integrating geographic information systems (GIS) software into our land conservation applications, we have been able to spatially divided all protected lands into three specific areas: 1) Resource Protection Areas (RPA), 2) Open Areas (OA), and 3) Acceptable Development Areas (ADA).

Resource Protection Areas usually have the strongest restrictions due to their environmental sensitivity. Examples of RPA's are riparian (stream) and littoral (pond) buffers, wetlands, and critical habitat areas (such as dunes, bogs, marshes, boreal forest).

Open Areas have slightly lesser restrictions, and are usually reserved for forests and grasslands whereby certain activities (mowing, planting, selective harvesting for firewood) occur.

Acceptable Development Areas have very few restrictions, but are spatially limited and well-defined. These areas can be set aside for creation, development, repair and replacement of home sites and accessory buildings (agricultural structures, garages, gazebos, etc).