It is the policy of the District to work with individuals and towns that want to protect property for future generations. The District received its first conservation easement in 1982 with the acceptance of the Herman and Barbara Parker conservation easement containing 154 acres in Greenland with frontage on the Winnicut River. Since that time, the Board of Supervisors have accepted nearly 100 easements permanently protecting over 4,500 acres from development. Easements are found in salt marshes, agricultural lands, town-owned lands, forests, and lands protecting exemplary communities such as the source of the Exeter River or a portion of the Winnicut River. The donation of a conservation easement is a major commitment for any landowner. Although there are programs available that provide compensation for qualifying easements, the primary reward for donating an easement is the knowledge that your exceptional property will forever be protected from development.
Conservation Easement Priorities
- Conservation of productive farm and forestlands
- Preservation of open space, scenic value, and enjoyment by public
- Conservation of wildlife habitat
- Protection of water resources
- Criteria for Property Protection
- Conserves critical soil types to ensure productive farm and forest lands
- Links adjacent buffers for greater protection of natural resources in an area
- Prevents probable threat of future development
- Is of sufficient size for public benefit and resource values will be intact even if nearby properties are developed
- Serves as a precedent for additional protection
- Can be reasonably monitored and legally defended
The Board of Supervisors retains final judgment of disposition based on the merits of each case.
Policy for Conservation Easement Stewardship Fund
In accepting a conservation easement the RCCD is making a major commitment. It assumes the legal responsibility to carry out the donor’s intentions by upholding the terms of the easement forever. These responsibilities include annual monitoring and being prepared to enforce the terms of the easement if it is violated or challenged. The RCCD has established the Conservation Easement Stewardship Fund for the purpose of covering costs associated with baseline documentation, monitoring, legal defense, and where appropriate, management of resources. In order to complete these responsibilities the RCCD must have consistent information about land use changes and ownership changes over time on all of its protected properties.
It is the policy of the RCCD to require that a stewardship fee payment be made for the Conservation Easement Stewardship Fund at the time of their easement donation. Factors that are considered in establishing the amount of the fee include: size and nature of easement area; location in relationship to other easements; extent to which easement provisions impose administrative burdens (i.e. approval of building sites; co- easement holders); general administrative costs; potential legal costs; potential for present or future violations; management purposes. All properties will be defended equally and to the fullest extent that the RCCD resources allow.
What is a conservation easement?
The Land Trust Alliance defines a conservation easement as, “a voluntary, 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. It allows you to continue to own and use your land and to sell it or pass it on to heirs.”