The Vermont Land Trust has been very successful at conserving some of the most productive and diverse land in the state. In over three decades, we have protected more than a half million acres of farmland and forestland using conservation easements.
With each conservation success comes a deep and permanent responsibility: we have promised to look after, or steward, the conservation protections placed on this land forever.
To make sure that the provisions in the original conservation easements are being honored, the members of our stewardship staff visit conserved properties once a year.
We have found that building relationships with landowners—walking their land with them and working to address common concerns—goes a long way toward making sure that our conservation easements are upheld.
Our regional stewardship managers and foresters are our connection with owners of conserved land.
These staff members are a trusted resource for landowners for a wide range of issues regarding our conservation easements. Examples of this work may include: responding to requests for help with ATV trespass issues; sharing their expertise on an invasive species threatening someone’s woodlot or streambanks; advising landowners about the Current Use tax program; or informing a landowner about a federal grant program aimed at wildlife habitat improvement and management.
As partners with landowners, we assume that landowners know what is best for their land, will do what is best by it, and unless proven otherwise, are acting with integrity and in good faith with us. This approach has paid off. The important natural resource values of the land we’ve conserved, such as agricultural soil, timber resources, or watersheds, have remained fully protected. We have had very few serious violations of the provisions in our conservation easements—well below the national average for land trusts.
VLT continues to build on the success of its stewardship work. We plan to increase our ability to provide landowners and communities with assistance and education on land management and land-based enterprise development. We will continue to build relationships with property owners as we engage them in our work.
And, we will also continue to remain true to our core stewardship responsibilities: monitoring easements, responding to landowner inquiries, investigating violations, and upholding the terms of our more than 1,500 conservation easements.