Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Vermont Land Trust?
The Vermont Land Trust is a member-supported, private nonprofit. Our mission is to conserve land for the future of Vermont and deepen people’s connections to the land. We protect farms, forests, and recreation areas. VLT is not a state agency. Some of our land protection work is funded through state and federal programs, such as the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board or the federal Forest Legacy Program.
Owners of conserved land are members of the Vermont Land Trust. Members receive our newsletter and annual report, and get discounted admission to our events (see our events page). At our Annual Celebration, members can tour conserved farms and forests, connect with VLT staff and trustees, and vote on new nominees to the Board of Trustees.
Who are Vermont Land Trust’s Regional Stewardship Managers?
Owners of conserved land have a primary contact at VLT who can help with questions and requests related to the conserved property. Each Regional Stewardship Manager (RSM) brings unique skills in forestry and/or agriculture to our team.
An RSM’s role is to be a resource to help landowners achieve their land management goals, and to ensure that the conservation easement’s conditions are upheld—not to tell people how to use or manage land. We also have three foresters on staff who visit conserved land and are always available to answer questions about conserved forestland.
Our RSMs are knowledgeable about other resources related to land management, including government programs and private initiatives related to open space, agriculture, water quality, and forestry.
When should I call VLT and who do I contact?
If you are an owner of conserved land, we encourage you to call or email your RSM or forester any time throughout the year with questions about your easement, or if you are planning to do something new or different with your land. There are a wide range of activities that you might need to contact VLT about; view our guide, When to Call VLT, if you are uncertain. See stewardship manager contact information and forester contact information for phone numbers and links to email addresses.
If your conservation easement names another co-holder aside from VLT, such as the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets and/or the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, you do not have to call them about your conservation restrictions—it is our role to assist you with that.
Will my RSM be in contact with me regularly?
Your RSM will be in touch with you at least once a year to learn about any changes to your property, and answer any questions you may have. She or he will ask how you’re using the land and about any future plans you have, as some changes need approval from VLT before moving forward. If you have made any major changes, your RSM may take photographs, create maps, and update records. If your plans require written approval, he or she will follow up with you.
What happens if I have not followed the conditions of my conservation easement?
Land conservation is a partnership between VLT and you, and we strive to find voluntary, cooperative solutions when there are issues with easement compliance. Your RSM and other staff will work with you to address any problems that are discovered during the yearly check-in, or at any other time. We can also tell you where you can get assistance outside of VLT to help make any changes needed.
What is the Use Value Appraisal or ‘Current Use’ Program?
The Use Value Appraisal program, also known as Current Use, is a legal agreement with the State of Vermont. Taxes on farmland and forestland enrolled in Current Use are based on how the land is used, instead of by its development potential. This can lead to reduced property taxes. The goal of the program is to keep Vermont’s land in agricultural and forestry production, and to more fairly tax undeveloped land.
In general, land in Current Use must be at least 25 acres in size (not including the two acres surrounding your house site). VLT-conserved forestland enrolled in Current Use must have a forest management plan that has been approved by both the county forester and a VLT forester. For more details on Current Use, contact your Vermont County Forester.
Do I need a forest management plan?
While we encourage everyone with conserved woodlands to have a forest management plan, it is only required if you intend to harvest trees for sale (including lumber, chips, firewood, or saw logs). Woodland enrolled in Current Use must also have a forest management plan that is updated every 10 years.
A VLT forester must approve a forest management plan for your land before you harvest timber for sale. It is your responsibility to ensure your forest management plan has been sent (by you or your forester) to VLT, and has been approved in writing by a VLT forester before you begin a commercial timber harvest. Depending on what you intend to do, your forest management plan may be short or very detailed. A consulting forester can help you identify goals for your land and prepare a plan to meet your needs.
Please call one of VLT’s foresters if you have any questions or would like get in touch with local foresters.
What if I want to have a business in my home or barn that is not related to agriculture or forestry?
Please call us if you are thinking about starting a business on your conserved land or in your home. We consider home businesses within certain limits, including making sure the enterprise does not detract from the original reasons we helped conserve your land. Some home businesses we have approved include bed and breakfasts, weaving or knitting studios, home bakeries, accounting services, and tool sales. Some out-of-home businesses we have permitted on conserved land include farm equipment repairs, sleigh rides, and small storage in existing buildings.
What are the rules about building houses?
While many easements do not allow for house construction, some do contain the right to build a residence, camp, or farm labor housing. Easements that allow for building a house limit the number and location of houses. If your easement does allow for a house, and you anticipate building, please contact us early in the process to ensure that any house construction plans are in line with the conservation restrictions. You may need written approval from VLT before beginning construction.
What do I need to do before I sell my VLT-conserved land or give it to my children?
Please call us to let us know who will be buying your land, even if they are family, so that we can introduce ourselves. If your conserved land is going on the market, please be sure to let your realtor know of the conservation easement early in the process, and provide him or her with the contact information of your RSM. RSMs are available to help answer questions from realtors and prospective buyers about what they can or cannot do on the land. They can be a valuable resource for these inquiries while the land is on the market.
If your conservation easement has a farm affordability option (also known as an Option to Purchase at Agricultural Value) or gives us a right-of-first-refusal, VLT has reserved a right to purchase the property when it comes up for sale. We suggest you contact your RSM to answer questions about the sale of your property.