My name is Tiffany Edwards, and I am a new conservation project manager at POST. For the past five months I have been meeting our wonderful volunteers, diving into projects and hiking our beautiful open spaces. I am thrilled to be here!
As a manager in POST’s land department, I wear several hats, but my largest responsibility is overseeing our conservation easement program. This means I supervise the annual monitoring of all of our conservation easements, coordinate with landowners on questions and concerns and assist in the acquisition of new easements.
With this in mind, I’d like to share with you what a conservation easement is and why POST uses these easements to protect our agricultural and open spaces.
What is a conservation easement?
Specifically, a conservation easement is a legal agreement between a land trust and a willing landowner that protects a property’s conservation values…forever! The conservation values they protect may include wildlife habitat, public access for recreation and agricultural activity.
It sounds simple but it can be complicated since no two properties are alike. Each is unique and easements are written to protect specific characteristics of a property, while also meeting the needs of the landowners and the objectives of POST. One easement may focus on the protection of habitat for Coho salmon, while another the carbon sequestration powers of old growth redwood stands or the prime agricultural soils of a property.
Once a conservation easement is created, it becomes part of the title associated with the land. This is where the “forever” part comes in. If and when a property is sold, the easement travels with the property and legally binds present and future owners to uphold the terms of the easement in perpetuity.
In most cases, the landowner continues to own and manage the land. Most properties protected by POST through a conservation easement are still used by the landowner as working ranches, farms or as a personal residence.
How do landowners benefit?
For most landowners, it’s about peace of mind and knowing that their property will be preserved, as they know it, into the future.
Landowners may also receive financial benefits, through cash from the sale of the easement or potentially lower property taxes. One local rancher summarizes these benefits nicely in a poem entitled “Ranching for Newts”. Additionally, a new tax incentive allows landowners who donate all or a portion of the value of their conservation easement to carry over those tax benefits for up to 15 years (read more here).
How do we know if we are actually meeting the goals of the easement?
That’s where I come in.
POST currently holds 32 conservation easements, which protect the natural resources of over 13,000 acres. These easements range in size from 2 acres to more than 2,000 acres with protected lands ranging from coastal terrace to redwood forests and farms. My job is to make sure that the agreements made in these easements are being upheld.
It’s a big responsibility, especially because we are obligated to physically visit, observe and report on these properties each year. In my next post, I’ll tell you about what we look for on visits and POST’s stellar group of volunteer monitors who make what we do possible.
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Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 86,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more