Conservation easements give people the assurance that the places they love will be protected forever. A conservation easement is a legal agreement that runs with the land, in perpetuity. The promise of forever makes land conservation especially meaningful — a legacy for future generations.
Once land is under easement, it’s the job of land trusts to make sure that promise is kept. And keeping land protected in perpetuity is — let’s face it — no small job. One of the Alliance’s core strategic goals is to support America’s 1,700 land trusts in this ongoing commitment, ensuring the permanence of land conservation.
When a land trust accepts a conservation easement, it takes on the responsibility to make sure that the terms of the easement are upheld. This requires consistent stewardship, including monitoring of the property at least once a year. An essential part of easement stewardship is maintaining good relationships with landowners — responding to questions and requests and, often, serving as a resource on land management issues.
Land trusts do stewardship activities on lands that they own in fee, as well as lands on which they hold easements. As the land trust movement matures, land trusts that already hold a significant roster of properties and easements often find that stewardship is a major part of their operations.
When a violation occurs on protected land, the land trust is responsible for making sure the problem is resolved. In most cases, the land trust and the landowner work together on a voluntary resolution. But, if necessary, the land trust must go to court to enforce the easement.
The Alliance offers extensive resources to support land trusts on conservation defense, including our Attorney Locator, Conservation Defense Clearinghouse, Conservation Defense Fund (for precedent-setting cases) and risk management resources.
To make sure that land trusts are financially prepared to defend protected lands, the Alliance developed Terrafirma — a unique insurance product that covers the legal costs of conservation defense.
Under the law, conservation easements protect the land in perpetuity — but laws can change. To ensure that the legal framework for land conservation will endure, land trusts are committed to building strong public support for land conservation.
To maintain public trust, all Alliance member land trusts have adopted the Land Trust Standards and Practices, a set of guidelines for high quality, ethical land conservation. Other core activities to strengthen public support include community conservation, outreach, and advocacy.