Monitoring - We monitor our conservation easement properties annually. Our primary duty is to verify no substantial changes in conditions have occurred relative to the original baseline study that could diminish the conservation values upon which we based the conservation easement. We have refined our monitoring procedures to include a site visit by a qualified expert familiar with the property and its baseline study. We interview property owners about any changes to operating or landscape conditions, any events on adjacent properties or in the vicinity, which may impact conservation values, as well as any planned changes in ownership or use. Photography is a tool we use to provide a visual record of property conditions over time as part of an annual monitoring report, which contains an-ongoing property history. We also access satellite imagery to view and document conditions.
Defending - From time to time there are challenges to conservation easements we hold. Sometimes there are uncertainties or misunderstandings related to permitted or prohibited uses on conservation easement properties. There may be pressures to extract or use resources, such as oil and gas, wind, and other alternative energy. Future property owners may not fully appreciate the conservation easement deeds or the underlying conservation easement values being protected. There may be competing public needs for water and space to develop public benefit facilities. Our first order strategy is to understand, communicate with and inform all parties. As a last resort we have successfully defended conservation easements in court.
Forecasting - Easements do not exist in a vacuum. The success of programs, such as our Arkansas River Conservation Corridor, depend not only on what happens on individual properties, but also on whole river conditions such as water quantity and quality. We work in partnership with property owners to maintain conservation values as river water conditions change.
Proactive Resource Management - We can’t wait for things to take their own course. A great example of this is the spread of Tamarisk in the Lower Arkansas River corridor. This aggressive species is not native, takes large volumes of water from the river, native plants, and is officially designated as “noxious”. We will work in partnership with property owners and government agencies to help eradicate Tamarisk in a manner which is friendly to the ecosystem.
On parts of our Santa Fe Trail Ranch Easement last summer and fall (2012), measures were taken to reduce wildfire spread and protect homes in the event of a wildfire.
Good stewardship is essential to uphold conservation easements for their intended public purposes. If values such as wildlife and wildlife habitat, healthy riparian and agricultural landscapes, open space corridors, recreational amenities, and public access are to be protected in perpetuity it will first and foremost through good management practices of farmers and ranchers protecting their own land. The Greenlands Reserve functions to monitor and assist land owners and property managers.