CONSERVATION STEWARDSHIP FUND

Introduction

The donation of a conservation easement is a major commitment for any landowner. Although tax benefits may result from such a gift, the primary reward for granting an easement is the knowledge that a cherished property will be forever protected.

In accepting an easement, the Hudson Highlands Land Trust is also making a major commitment. The Trust assumes the legal responsibility to carry out the donor’s intentions by upholding the terms of the conservation easement – forever. The generous gift of an easement to your Land Trust allows the organization to further its mission of protecting lands that are essential to the character of the Hudson Highlands, but each easement also represents a perpetual obligation for the Trust to monitor the properties for compliance with the easement terms. Although it is very unusual for grantors of easements to violate the terms of those easements, the possibility that violations will occur increases as time passes and properties change hands.

In order for the Hudson Highlands Land Trust to care properly for the easements it holds, it must regularly monitor those easements and be prepared to enforce their terms. At the least, this will involve a modest amount of staff time and travel. In the worst case, your Land Trust may need to defend the terms of an easement, perhaps through court action, the expense of which could be significant.

Purpose of the Fund

The Conservation Stewardship Fund (CSF) has been established solely for the purpose of covering the costs associated with monitoring and preserving the Land Trust’s easements. It allows the Land Trust staff to visit each property annually to collect information about current conditions of the land, thus ensuring that the conservation easement donor’s desires are adhered to in perpetuity. As the fund builds, it will also ensure the Trust’s ability to take actions that may be necessary to uphold the terms of each easement.

It is the policy of the Land Trust to request that landowners make a tax-deductible gift to the Conservation Stewardship Fund at the time of their easement donation. The suggested donation amount, and how it is derived, is provided in the Sources and Uses document that follows this cover letter. If a donation is not possible at the time of the easement gift, landowners are asked to consider pledging a future contribution that may be donated over several years or as a bequest. The Directors of the Land Trust recognize that not all landowners are able to make such a contribution and a cash gift is not a condition of the Land Trust’s acceptance of an easement. However, we do ask that each donor consider the costs of a stewardship program to protect their long-term interests/desires for the conserved property.

Uses of the Fund

Donations received for the CSF, and income derived from investing these funds, will only be used for the stewardship activities required for the Land Trust to meet its monitoring and enforcement commitments in perpetuity. Specifically, these activities include:

  • Monitoring property under easement held by the Land Trust; possible expenses include staff travel and time, equipment rental, photography, administration.
  • Enforcement expenses, primarily legal fees and court costs;
  • Preventative measures, in addition to monitoring, such as orientation meetings with new landowners, surveys and boundary marking;

Management of the Fund

The CSF consists of principal invested in a Land Trust investment account. Income received is expended for the uses specified above, with all principal retained to pay for any extraordinary legal or enforcement expenses, as authorized by the Board of Directors.

Donations to the Fund are pooled in a single account for administration and for investment purposes. Because funds are pooled, contributions made by an individual primarily to safeguard a particular property may be used toward payment of monitoring and enforcement costs for other properties over which the Land Trust holds an easement. All properties will be defended equally. Special fundraising efforts will be undertaken as necessary to replenish any expenditure of principal or to strengthen the fund.