Photos: Kerry Joy McGehee
Every property for which the Conservancy holds a conservation easement is visited annually. When a conservation easement is granted in perpetuity to TVC, a baseline report is prepared. This report identifies the existing conditions of the land and resources; it is used as a reference when TVC conducts an annual stewardship visit to the property. The procedure allows both TVC and the landowner to document any changes to the property and ensures that conservation values have been maintained or improved since the time when the conservation easement was executed.
A TVC staff member and a volunteer meet with each landowner annually so that we may provide an opportunity for them to ask us questions about their conservation easement. Our annual property site visits are intended to document any changes to the property subsequent to the previous report. Our visits provide data for the annual stewardship report and also provide us the opportuntity to connect with the landowners to learn about current changes to the property and also about any anticipated changes.
One observation has been repeatedly confirmed over the past eighteen years of visits: the best stewards of their land are the landowners themselves! TVC realizes that developing strong relationships with landowners is the best way to help provide for good stewardship of the land and avoid potential conflicts about conservation easements.
Our desire is to find tools, expertise, and resources to assist landowners as they steward their land and promote the economic viability of Tri-Valley agriculture. We have been working with each of the landowners to expand our contacts beyond the once-a-year “stewardship visit.” We are adding to our network of resources, including the Alameda County Resource Conservation District and the federal Natural Resources Conservation Services.
A conservation easement can be an effective legal tool for protecting significant resources for the benefit of present and future generations. However, a conservation easement does not in itself protect land, but rather, it authorizes a land trust, in partnership with the landowner, to ensure the long-term protection of the property.