Why protect land
Many people have a deep, emotional attachment to the Monadnock region. They care for the fields, woods, and waters. They care about the places where they walk and picnic with their families, where they fish and swim, where they gather food and cut firewood, and where they see birds, moose, and spring peepers.
If you are one of those people, you may wonder what will happen to the land when you no longer own the property, or about the future of lands someone else owns but you cherish — the scenic views you pass daily, the multigenerational farm down the road or the local hiking spot.
Land conservation provides a practical and permanent solution: land is protected from extensive development and important natural resources are saved — forever. Conservation ensures that future generations will benefit from the foresight of others and that our children’s children will be able to enjoy the Monadnock region. This is why the Monadnock Conservancy is dedicated to working together with landowners and community members to protect forever the land we love.
The Monadnock Conservancy has clear guidelines for land conservation, using established criteria to evaluate projects. Our goal is to conserve land that will support or enhance clean water; forestry and agriculture; wildlife and special natural areas; and recreation, scenery, and cultural resources. View our one-page outline of the Conservancy’s project selection criteria and priorities.
The Monadnock Conservancy works directly with landowners on permanent conservation agreements. There are several options available to landowners who are interested in protecting their land. The two most common are the donation of a conservation easement on the land or the donation of the land itself. These and other options are described briefly below; more information is available by contacting Conservancy staff. Every transaction is a little different, depending on the land, the owner’s needs and goals, and other considerations. The Conservancy works with each landowner to structure a conservation option that meets mutually agreed upon objectives.
Donate a conservation easement
A landowner may choose to donate a conservation easement on his or her property. A conservation easement deed is a legal agreement between a landowner and a conservation organization that limits future activities on the land to protect its natural resources. The Monadnock Conservancy works with landowners to draft restrictions appropriate to the unique characteristics of each property and the landowner's goals. In general, most Conservancy easements allow landowners to still manage their land for agriculture, forestry, recreation, and wildlife habitat, but puts limits on certain development rights and intensive activities. Land subject to a conservation easement remains in private ownership and can be sold, given, or inherited at any time. However, any future owner must abide by the permanent restrictions spelled out in the easement.
A landowner may give a property to the Monadnock Conservancy outright (legally known as “in fee”). With each acquisition of fee land, the Conservancy will explore different ownership options. Most often the Conservancy keeps the land as permanent conservation land. However, depending on the type of land and the donor’s interest, the Conservancy may place a conservation easement on the land and then sell it or otherwise convey it to another party, or sell the land with no restrictions on it. These latter two options may be appropriate for land that doesn’t meet our criteria for permanent fee land, but allows the Conservancy to raise funds to further support our conservation mission.
Convey land or conservation easement through estate planning
An individual may make a donation of land or a conservation easement to the Monadnock Conservancy through her or his will or trust after an agreement has already been made with the Conservancy.
Life estate option (gift of a remainder interest)
The Monadnock Conservancy works with landowners while they are still alive to outline an agreement in which land is donated to the Conservancy today and the landowners continue to have access to the property for their lifetimes or the lifetimes of their families or other designated persons.
Sale of conservation easement or land
Occassionally, the Monadnock Conservancy may purchase a piece of land or a conservation easement for property with exceptional conservation values. Because funding is limited and highly-competitive, landowners may even choose to sell at a price less than the appraised fair market value aka a “bargain sale” to make this a more likely option.
A step-by-step guide to conserving land
The process of land conservation generally takes 6 to 12 months. The timing depends on the landowner’s preparedness, availability of key documents, and the complexity of the project.
1. Contact us
Email or call one of our conservation project managers. An initial conversation can establish a common understanding of your goals and, if appropriate, staff can begin to research the natural resources and other features of the property.
2. Site visit
If the landowner(s) and the staff agree to proceed, the Lands Committee visits the property, meets the landowner(s) and determines whether the project meets the Conservancy's land protection goals. If the Lands Committee decides the project does fit, it recommends the project to the Board of Trustees.
3. Background research
Once the Board of Trustees has voted to proceed with a project, then staff begins due diligence work, including confirming the property has a clear title, conducting a hazardous waste assessment, and verifying the property boundaries through existing or new survey work. Staff continues to research the property’s natural resources through geographic information systems analysis, ground-truthing, and consultation with other experts.
4. Drafting the deed
The next step is for staff to work with the landowner(s) to define the terms of the easement or of the gift of land, producing draft deeds to be reviewed by the landowner(s), the landowner’s legal counsel, and the Conservancy’s legal counsel.
5. Baseline documentation
Staff complete a baseline documentation of the property, which documents the condition of the land at the time the conservation easement is put in place. The baseline documentation includes maps, photographs, and other written reports.
6. Approval and closing
When all these pieces are in place, the Lands Committee brings the project back to the Board of Trustees for a final vote of acceptance. Staff set up the closing meeting with the landowner, at which the deed is signed and notarized. The deed is then recorded in the county Registry of Deeds.
7. Costs and tax benefits
There are costs associated with land transactions such as legal and recording fees, environmental site assessment, title review, staff time for baseline work and for managing the overall transaction process, and a stewardship fund contribution. Although easement and fee land donors are typically asked to cover these costs, other various potential funding sources may be available, such as municipalities, foundations, individual donors, and Conservancy endowment funds. On the other hand, land protection may provide certain income tax or property tax benefits, and can be an important part of estate planning. The tax implications will depend on the timing and the value of the gift, the donor’s financial circumstances, tax incentives, tax laws and rates at the time of the transaction as well as other factors. We can supply general information about the tax implications of land protection but a landowner considering conservation options should consult with his or her own tax advisor.
Meet Ellen Chase and Margaret Perry, landowners/conservation easement donors
Sisters Ellen Chase and Margaret (Chase) Perry have always loved their family’s 135-acre property in Alstead. It’s a place is where blueberries grow; where snowshoe hare, bobcat, deer, and moose cross the slopes; and, from the summit, where they can set their sights on the distances and listen to the wind.
“We’d always been taught this place is sacred,” Ellen said. “It would’ve been sacrilegious to develop it.”
“People told us if you need money, you can always sell lots on Prentice Hill,” Margaret said.
Both agreed they’d rather choose another option. It was this strong sense of connection to the land that prompted the sisters to choose a conservation easement as a way to protect the property that has been in the family for more than 100 years. They inherited the land from their parents, Heman and Edith (Newlin) Chase.
Through the conservation easement process, the Chase sisters learned more about the ecological values and the natural history of the area, which only reinforced their decision. “As we walked the woods with various Conservancy specialists who shared their observations and excitement with us, we learned new things about the land. And when the easement process was completed, we could see we had helped preserve an area even more special than we'd known,” Ellen said.