Conservation Easement Protecting Perennial Stream and Native Plants:
A landowner desired to preserve forever in its undeveloped state a large parcel of land. Although invasive species were present, the property was home to, and provided optimal habitat for, a variety of native plant and animal species. The property also provide a natural watershed buffer for a perennial stream that ran through the property. While invasives dominated on the property, the owner anticipated that, over time, these could be removed and replanted with native plants and trees. The owner believed she might ultimately donate or bequeath the property to a native plant restoration project, so she wanted to reserve the right for such an organization to construct a limited number of buildings sufficient to carry out its work, including research and education. She also wanted to reserve a right to build a main house and guest house on the property, to assure the property remained marketable to a typical land buyer, in the event it became necessary for her to sell the property to generate income for her and her family. We assisted the owner in identifying a compatible land trust to hold a conservation easement that the landowner would donate to it. The conservation easement would incorporate the restrictions and reservations she desired, as well as provide enforcement terms so that the land trust could make sure that the easement restrictions were adhered to by future landowners. We thereafter negotiated and drafted the easement terms, as well as assisted with related issues, including title issues, baseline documentation of the land, long term stewardship fees requested by the land trust, and tax issues. A significant majority of the property is now forever protected from any development. Some reserved rights remain that could permit the property to be managed and used by a native plant nonprofit organization, and the owner retained the right to build a home on the property in a location that would least impact the conservation values of the property.
Conservation Development Project:
We acted as the lead consultant and legal adviser to a sustainable forestry project that also includes employee housing and a long term plan to convey ownership of one part of the forestry business to the employees. This project involved several years of master planning during which a number of options were considered and further refined. The master plan ultimately involved permitting sustainable timber activities on one part of the property, limiting activities to reforestation of native plants and trees in another part (which is now encumbered by a conservation easement), and providing a place for the business and community structures on another part of the property.
We assisted in a variety of ways, including leading the master planning process, providing agendas and leading discussions at the multi-day board meetings that happened several times per year, and vetting the project with potential nonprofit partners, and convincing government agencies to provide necessary permits along the way. We have also played a key role in establishing a line of healthy communication between the employees and decision makers, which proved key to maintaining morale on both sides during uncertain times.
The project has now made it through the most difficult infancy stage, and now supports a sustainable forestry timber business that appears to be viable. Once viability appeared likely, it was conveyed from the owners to the employees through a joint venture agreement that will see the project through its second stage over the next several years. Another key aspect of our work was negotiating and drafting the complex interrelationships between the various parties in a manner that was understandable, and made financial sense based on the small economies of scale.