Frequently Asked Questions - Easement Stewardship
The primary role of our easement stewardship program is to ensure that the conservation values of protected properties are preserved. This is achieved through careful monitoring and record keeping, and fostering a mutually beneficial relationship with each and every landowner. The cycle of land protection is not finished when the deed is recorded; the hard work comes in our ability and commitment to steward, or defend, the identified conservation values in perpetuity.
The Forest Society is legally obligated to ensure that all terms of the conservation easement are met. Our easement stewardship staff carries out this important commitment through annual monitoring, regular contact with landowners, providing educational resources, maintaining permanent records, and working with natural resource professionals.
The primary objective of our stewardship program is to preserve the conservation values of those lands protected by conservation easements. Ensuring compliance with the terms of each easement is critical to meeting this objective. The Forest Society is prepared to legally defend and enforce our easements when necessary. Legal enforcement, however, is a remedy of last resort. Our program is most successful if compliance is voluntary.
Therefore, we work in partnership with landowners—and the local communities in which our protected lands are located—to encourage voluntary compliance with the terms of our conservation easements whenever possible. We respect the commitment made by the landowners and we are dedicated to working with you in a respectful and professional manner. In all of our stewardship activities, we strive to:
- Establish and maintain good relationships with our landowners
- Establish and maintain good records on the conservation values and management history of each property
- Provide professional, timely responses and services to our landowners
Your easement steward will be assigned according to the town in which your property is located. Locate your town on the Service Area map and use the color key to find your particular steward. Find out more about your easement steward on our Contacting Your Easement Steward page.
If you are unsure if any activity is permitted by your easement or deed restriction, it’s always a good idea to contact your steward. He or she can help you understand the language of your easement, and can explain what activities require notification. Each conservation easement is unique, but at the very least, you should contact your steward before:
- Conducting a commercial timber harvest
- Building new structures
- Exercising a reserved right
- Transferring title or selling your property
- Making any changes in management
As a conservation easement property owner, you are responsible for complying with the specific terms of the conservation easement on your property. Although each conservation easement has different restrictions, in most cases you are responsible for at least the following:
- Allowing Forest Society representatives access to the land to monitor the property;
- Complying with the terms of your conservation easement and working with Forest Society staff to resolve any compliance issues;
- All local, state and federal land use permits; and,
- Providing notice to the Forest Society before exercising certain reserved rights or transferring title
No, you may sell or convey your land to a different owner at any time at any price. Conservation easements run with the land forever, so all future owners will be required to follow the easement terms. We request that you notify your easement steward in writing at least 10 days before you transfer title, and many of easements require you to send written notice prior to transfer.
Not all conservation easements guarantee public access, so you’ll want to refer to your specific easement deed. Look under the Purposes section; there may be language that indicates the property was protected for outdoor recreation by and/or the education of the general public. This indicates that there is guaranteed public access on at least a portion of your property. You can also look under the Use Limitations section; there will likely be a section that addresses public access and prohibits posting the property against non-motorized recreation.
Most easements include language that the property was protected as open space for the scenic enjoyment of the general public; this does not guarantee public access, but simply acknowledges that the conservation of your land protects views enjoyed by other people.
Still unsure? Contact your easement steward for help interpreting your easement language.
Once an easement is recorded, the restrictions are held in perpetuity. It is the Forest Society’s policy to hold and enforce conservation easements as written; amendments may be authorized only under exceptional circumstances. Any proposed amendment must be authorized by the Forest Society’s Board of Trustees as well as the Attorney General, and must meet the conditions outlined in our policy. The publication Amending or Terminating Conservation Easements: Conforming to State Charitable Trust Requirements provides further guidance on amendments.
The State of New Hampshire has laws in place that are designed to limit your liability as a landowner. The laws apply to all types of land, but do not extend protection to any landowner that collects a fee for use of the land. Read more about NH’s liability laws in this summary provided by Upper Valley Land Trust.
UNH Cooperative Extension is a great resource for information on invasive plants. Visit their website for more information on banned plants, identification, and control of invasive species on your property. Download the latest Guide to Upland Plant Species in NH.
Visit http://nhbugs.org/ for the latest information on invasive insects in NH. You can learn how to identify each insect and can report sightings on your property.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offers voluntary programs to landowners that can provide financial and technical assistance in exchange for improving conservation practices on your property. Visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/nh/programs/financial/ for more information.
Adverse possession is a common law that allows a person to acquire title to real property without mutual agreement by the parties. Adverse possession is confusing, complicated, and can often be very emotional. While it is relatively rare, our easement stewards frequently get asked questions about it.
We have prepared a handout regarding adverse possession, which includes steps you can take to protect yourself from it.
It is not unusual for the easement stewardship team to find encroachments along easement boundaries. In some cases, an encroachment by an abutter is also a third party violation of the easement. More often, the abutter’s encroachment is an activity permitted by the easement, such as a garden or foot path. For encroachments that are not easement violations, correcting the encroachment is a matter for the landowner and abutter to resolve. However, if the encroachment is not addressed, it may ripen into adverse possession.
If you have questions about adverse possession and how it relates to your conservation easement, contact Reagan Bissonnette, Director of Easement Stewardship.