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.
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.
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.
Typically, conservation easements held by the Forest Society allow the landowner to continue to use the land for agriculture, forestry, non-commercial outdoor recreation, wildlife habitat management and all other uses that are compatible with the conservation goals for the property and not specifically prohibited by the easement terms.
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.
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.
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.
An executory interest is a secondary or backup easement in the land held by another conservation organization. The executory interest holder is responsible for ensuring that the primary easement holder monitors the property and enforces the terms of the easement. If the primary holder fails to enforce the easement for any reason, the backup holder can take enforcement action to restore the property and can even take over the easement from the grantee. As a landowner you may choose which organization is the primary easement holder and the executory interest holder.
The Forest Society knows that the best way to prevent problems over conservation easements is to maintain a positive relationship and good communication with the landowners. The conservation organization that holds the easement has the authority and obligation to ensure that the natural resources are protected in perpetuity. Easement holders are responsible for regularly inspecting the site to make sure the property is maintained in compliance with the easement. If activities on the land violate the agreement, the easement holder may take action to halt the damaging activity.