Land Conservation

by Jack Savage

The upcoming generation, as represented by students in the Natural Resources department at the University of New Hampshire, thinks that we are insane. And they sound determined to make some changes.

Dec. 11, 2014 – A 150-acre bastion of excellent wildlife habitat and scenic woodlands in Middleton is much closer to being conserved now that the state's Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) has granted $112,500 to the effort to protect it from development. 

Who owns the land when a conservation easement is placed on a property?

As a landowner, you continue to own and have the right to manage your land while giving up the right to engage in certain intensive uses of the property.  You will continue to be responsible for paying the local property taxes on the parcel.

Who can hold conservation easements?

According to New Hampshire state law, conservation easements can be held by a qualified non-profit conservation organizations or public agencies and municipalities able to ensure that the property is protected in perpetuity.  Private groups such as the Forest Society, the NH Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy, and local land trusts are equipped to receive and enforce conservation easements.

What uses are prohibited on conservation easement land?

Conservation easements generally prohibit subdivision and development, commercial and industrial activities, except agriculture and forestry, mining and excavating, filling or disturbance of wetlands, and disposal of man-made waste or hazardous materials.

Can landowners request specific permitted uses on the property?

When you work out the details of the easement with the easement holder, you should try to anticipate as many future needs and possibilities for the land as possible.  Specific exceptions may allow an additional house lot on the property or the right to build and maintain roads and buildings.  Sometimes landowners put conservation easements on only a portions of their property reserving full development options for the balance of their land.

Does the easement grant any rights to the easement holder?

The conservation organization that holds the easement has the right to enter the property to monitor its condition and the obligation to enforce the easement, in court if necessary, to ensure that the terms are upheld and the natural resources are protected.