The goal of land conservation is to permanently protect natural resources. Together with protecting wildlife habitat, conservation lands also provide scenic, recreational and educational areas and preserve community rural character.Voluntary conservation easements are among the most common permanent land conservation techniques. A conservation easement is a legally binding agreement between a landowner and a conservation organization that limits certain uses of the land in perpetuity. Landowners can donate or sell conservation easements to land trusts, towns or some government agencies. With a conservation easement, the landowner still owns the land and can continue to use it for activities such as forestry and farming. However no subdivision, commercial development or mining are permitted (the development rights for the land are extinguished). The conservation organization holding the easement is responsible for monitoring the property annually to ensure the terms of the easement are followed.
Conveyance of full ownership ("fee simple") is another method for protecting land. This is where the landowner donates or sells full ownership of their land to a conservation group for purposes of conserving the land. This offers long-term protection for the land while relieving the landowner of all responsibilities for the land, such as property taxes and management, and permits the conservation organization to manage the property for public use, wildlife habitat or other special conservation values.
More information about land conservation options (such as conservation easements, fee ownership, deed restrictions, mutual covenants, etc. can be found in the book, Conserving Your Land: Options for NH Landowners. Learn from other communities who have used land conservation to protect wildlife habitat.
Use your wildlife conservation plan as a guide to work on specific conservation projects to protect important habitats in your community. Habitat protection is often one of the primary reasons many landowners conserve land. Now is the time to start conversations with those landowners to gauge their level of interest in voluntarily conserving their land for wildlife habitat. Here is how to get started:
- Refer to your Wildlife Conservation Plan and review the priority areas identified along with your town's tax map.
- Select one or two areas to start, and identify key parcels that build on existing conservation lands or provide opportunities for connections/travel routes between conserved parcels and critical wildlife habitats.
- Identify landowners who may have expressed an interest in voluntary land conservation and follow up with them to discuss conservation options.
- Also identify other landowners to contact to discuss their potential interest in voluntary land conservation.
- Partnering with a local, regional or statewide land trust can be helpful in discussing conservation options with landowners, deciding on an easement holder, drafting the terms of the easement, etc.
- Land conservation projects cost money, and multiple sources of funding are often needed. Refer to The New Hampshire Municipal Conservation Fund Guidebook for information about municipal sources of funds, such as the Conservation Fund. Land Trusts can assist you with locating other funding sources, such as state and federal funds, donations, etc.