“This land is as much a part of our family as our children and our animals—we feel honored to have the chance to be its stewards.”
Our family so strongly believes in preserving open space for future generations that we have gone through the easement process two times in opposite ends of the state with two different land trust organizations in two very different environments…one besieged by multiple metropolitan areas and one that will face similar challenges in the future.
We owned a very special property on the Chester–Lancaster County border—it was at the top of a local reservoir and joined roughly 800 acres of protected watershed. The land offers an incredible variety of habitat, from wetlands to upland woods. When it came time to move we were very concerned that the property should remain a haven for the creatures that share our world. We had friends that were involved with the Natural Lands Trust (NLT) and after exploring various avenues we decided that donating a conservation easement with them was the best way to help protect this special place.
The most attractive part of this agreement was that we were able to work with a small organization, of our choosing, that would be the watchdog of the property; NLT views their stewardship as a partnership with the landowner in preserving open space. They obviously have to establish a cooperative type relationship or risk losing future opportunities by over-administering, so they have a vested interest in trying to maintain a good relationship with the landowners. The government watches over these organizations to make sure that they remain true to their mission. We worked with NLT to develop a plan that allowed future owners flexibility in how they wished to interact with their land while establishing a policy that would ensure long-term protection.
We were warned by many people that we would be tying our hands in the future by entering into this type of agreement, but we felt that we would take that chance because it was such a special place. It worked out as we had hoped as we were able to find a buyer who loved the property as we had and was very comfortable with the easement. We did make sure that the house and outbuildings were left out of the easement so that future owners had control of those areas, and that was a key part of their comfort level.
When we moved to northern Pennsylvania, we decided to place a conservation easement on our new homestead with the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy. We wanted to be sure that this land was also preserved, that there would be some open space for future generations of all life forms. With such an agreement, we felt that our heirs would have a better chance of holding on to the land in the future since it would always be assessed as its base agricultural value for inheritance purposes; if they chose to live elsewhere it would remain essentially as we found it and loved it.
This land is as much a part of our family as our children and our animals—we feel honored to have the chance to be its stewards, to work it, and interact with it on a daily basis and hope that by protecting it we have done something good during our time on this earth. That will be our legacy.