Charlestown Land Trust Explains Land Conservation and Conservation Easements

The following letter appeared in local newspapers and is shared with us here by the author Karen Jarret. Ms. Jarret is President of the Charlestown Land Trust.

The following is an open letter to Charlestown residents.

Fellow citizens of Charlestown, there is a town vote June 1st to determine the protection of the Moraine Preserve and future open space purchases. The Charlestown Land Trust is writing this letter with hopes to clarify what a conservation easement does and does not do, along with reasons why conservation is critical.

Why do people conserve land?

Thousands of families are determined to conserve the places they value. Landowners have a deep connection to their land and know undeveloped properties provide their communities with clear air and water, fresh food, wildlife habitat, and sheer scenic beauty. All too often these special places disappear forever because of development. Americans who want to conserve their land can turn to land trusts — non profit organizations that work with landowners interested in protecting open space.

Our mission is to preserve and protect the distinct character, sensitive ecosystems and natural resources of Charlestown through the preservation of open space. Land trusts protect land directly by buying or accepting donations of land or of conservation easements. They also educate the public and advocate for the need to conserve land and protect vital, necessary resources. They can help landowners tailor a conservation plan to their individual situation and financial circumstances, and determine the propertyʼs conservation values and future ownership.

Charlestown Land Trust works in partnership with DEM, Nature Conservancy, and the town to designate sensitive areas, with hopes to preserve and protect the resources here in Charlestown. Funding can come from state and federal grants, bonds, partnerships and donations.

What types of land can be protected by land trusts?

Land trusts protect a variety of lands, but many concentrate their efforts on:

• Natural, sensitive habitat for wildlife, fish and plants such as forests, waterways, grassy fields, or our salt ponds and oceans

• Watershed areas like lakeshores, recharge areas, vernal ponds, rivers, streams and wetlands

• Scenic landscapes, particularly those with local community, cultural or historic significance

• Working landscapes like farmland and ranchland have special significance for growing food

How does the Charlestown Land Trust conserve land?

Land trusts have many options available to them in order to conserve land. Two of the most popular options are fee simple and conservation easements.

Fee simple

A land trust can conserve land through an outright purchase or donation, in which the landowner sells or grants all rights, title and interest in the property to the land trust. The land trust maintains perpetual stewardship and management responsibility for the land. It owns the land and may grant conservation easements on land it owns in fee to another conservation organization, agency or town.

Conservation easement

A conservation easement (or conservation restriction) is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values into perpetuity. The owner decides on the restrictions of the easement along with the use of a management plan. It allows the landowner to continue to own and use the land and to sell it or pass it on to heirs. A landowner may sell a conservation easement, but usually easements are donated. The easement holder monitors the property annually to insure intentions within the easement are intact.

We encourage you to understand the questions and get out and vote June 1 at Town Hall.

Karen Jarret for the Charlestown Land Trust.