A handful of Pennsylvania land trusts were asked the following question on 3/19/2020: What are land trusts doing regarding conservation easement monitoring?
Here are the responses (edited for clarity and anonymity):
Right now we are continuing to do monitoring visits without landowners along.
We plan to move forward with easement annual monitoring visits. We will ask landowners by phone to allow us to monitor without them present. We feel that monitoring visits are low risk tasks that keep us working and allow for social distancing.
If there is a ‘shelter in place’ proclamation then, obviously, monitoring visits will stop.
We are moving forward with monitoring, but with staff alone and not with the landowners along.
We’re proceeding with monitoring – sans landowner-contact – for now.
The last visit happened yesterday due to a potential problem with a neighbor. The rest of the visits scheduled for this week and beyond are going to be rescheduled. While we could do the visits without seeing a landowner or entering any type of structure I didn’t feel comfortable continuing.
For the near term we have stopped all visits to properties. While the risk is likely low with no landowner engagement, the reality is people are dealing with a lot right now and adding in a visit to their property for annual monitoring just doesn’t seem like a high priority at the moment.
Our conservation easements are across a large geographic area. The person doing the site visit is going to use gas and probably need to find a restroom (not to be too graphic, but there aren’t crops or leaves for cover right now). I didn’t feel comfortable with staff making extra trips to the gas pumps or trying to find, let alone use a restroom.
Some organizations around the country are discussing remote monitoring via satellite.
We do some remote monitoring, have been for a while, where we have updated satellite images. While researching when Google Earth would post their updates (they usually fly in February – but don’t post until April), we found this resource regarding recent satellite imagery: https://www.azavea.com/blog/2020/01/02/how-to-find-the-most-recent-satellite-imagery/