Answers to questions frequently asked about the Conservation Land Stewardship Program.
The CLS program is based on the original LCIP monitoring program that created an efficient and effective means to provide monitoring of the State's interest in conservation lands it has invested in through the LCIP. When the monitoring phase of the LCIP was created it was found to be in the State's best interest to have the state-held easements (divided among 3 state agencies) and the municipal-held fee and easement properties (assigned to 4th agency) all monitored by one entity. This model of one contact point would provide consistency in monitoring standards, easement interpretation and enforcement, database management, and would provide both economies of scale and operational efficiencies. This stand-alone program is also in the best position to provide objective oversight of the properties and best protect the State of New Hampshire's investment.
Based on over ten years of this work, agencies and communities have asked that we monitor other "non-lcip" conservation easements in which the state may have an interest. Given these new interests, CLS provides a more accurate name of what we do, and minimizes confusion with LCHIP. Since the core component of CLS is the LCIP monitoring, and our efforts cross jurisdictional lines of many agencies, CLS operates within the Office of Strategic Initiatives as a component of Council On Resources and Development (CORD). CORD is chaired by the Director of Energy and Planning.
The CLS does not provide funding for land protection. One of the best sources for funding information is the publication Saving Special Places: Community Funding for Land Conservation . On occasion the CLS does assist State agencies with the acquisition of properties. The Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), a successor program to the LCIP, is actively involved in funding protection of exceptional lands on a statewide basis. A comprehensive list of projects they have supported can be found on their website.
Since the acquisition component of the LCIP closed its doors in 1993, the major distinction between the two is that the LCIP is solely a stewardship and monitoring program of the State of New Hampshire. The LCIP is a core component of the CLS program. Conversely, LCHIP is actively involved in land acquisition and the stewardship of properties and historical structures for which they have provided funding. They are a public instrumentality of the State and are governed by the LCHIP authority board of directors.
We recommend that someone from your community monitor your locally held easements at least once a year, or more often if activity warrants it. Be sure they keep good records of the visit, fill out monitoring reports, and submit them into the town records! Conservation easements where a tax deduction was taken may be required by the IRS to be monitored annually. The cost of not monitoring can be catastrophic!
Yes! We monitor the State-held easement properties under the assumption that perpetuity means forever. For properties protected through the local portion of the LCIP, both in fee and as easements, a project agreement was signed by each Town obligating it to monitor and report on each property annually. Additionally there are IRS rules regarding the monitoring of properties for which a tax deduction was taken.
Generally, the landowner reserves the right to post against motorized access on LCIP properties.
Yes, there is there is a wealth of ATV information available which includes the New Hampshire laws. Hard copies are available from NH Parks & Recreation and NH Fish & Game.
Generally. While many easements specifically allow the landowner to post against hunting, state-held easements typically have an affirmative right that allows the public to hunt, hike, ski and fish. Since state funds were a part of acquiring interests in the land, there is a distinct public access piece to state-held easements. However, there are some exceptions! Often, there is language in easements that allows landowners to post certain areas, such as in their croplands during planting and growing season and in areas to protect their livestock. Some of the locally held easements, which were donated as part of a local LCIP project, can post against hunting. Before going out, make sure you understand if and where hunting is allowed.
If you are not sure who holds the easement, a good bet is to go to your conservation commission or town/city administrator. Your municipality should have records of all easements on file. If there is a problem on a CLS easement, you can also contact our office directly. For a comprehensive resource on easement stewardship, including violations, we recommend The Conservation Easement Stewardship Guide: Designing, Monitoring, And Enforcing Easements by Brenda Lind which is available from the Land Trust Alliance.
There is no single answer to this question because each easement generally has something distinctive about them (in the language) based on the property it protects. However, LCIP easements are unique in that there is often a right of specified public access in the deed. Many (but not all!) LCIP lands require some level of access because state funds were used in acquisition.
When the program began acquiring easements and fee simple interests, LCIP funds were divided between local projects and state projects. Local easements are "held" by the community. The community is responsible for ongoing stewardship and the State of New Hampshire holds a secondary interest in each property. This means that if the community cannot, or will not, uphold the terms of the easement, the State will through CLS.
State held easements are primarily held by one of three state agencies; the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department, the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets, and Foods, or the Department of Resources & Economic Development. The Conservation Lands Stewardship Program (CLS), housed at the Office of Strategic Initiatives, provides ongoing stewardship on many of these easement lands, including regular monitoring visits. We also actively coordinate our stewardship activities with the appropriate agency.
The difference lies in the fact that an easement deed provides specific guidelines for what is allowed and what is not allowed on the property. The land remains privately owned and managed, but the community holds an interest in the property. Regular monitoring of the properties, usually by the conservation commission, can help keep problems from arising.
LCIP fee-owned parcels are fully owned and managed by the community. Their charge is to manage the land in a manner consistent with the reasons behind why the land was protected in the first place, and in a manner that will not compromise the conservation values of the property. The specific day-to-day management decisions are left up to the municipality. However, if management practices begin to compromise the conservation values of the property, LCIP may step in to help insure that the municipality understands their responsibilities. The CLS checks on these lands periodically. CLS staff conduct a "field visit" to each of the currently 238 local parcels protected through the LCIP approximately once every 5 years. They are visited more often if a conservation commission requests assistance.
In many ways communities should look after their LCIP easements and fee-owned parcels in a similar way. Ultimately the spirit behind why the public pursued conservation of these properties is the same. The LCIP statute clearly states that the "conservation value of these lands be protected in perpetuity". This applies to both conservation easements and fee-owned parcels acquired through program. Each town signed a "project agreement" that spells out their responsibility to monitor both types of properties annually, and to submit a report to CLS.
In general, no. Lands protected through the LCIP are held in the Public Trust and cannot be released from that Trust. The only way to have a change allowed is through an affirmative vote of the legislature. The bar has been set extremely high making it extremely unlikely it will ever happen. This rigorous standard is meant to prevent the conservation values from being eroded. To date no amendment for other than public purposes has been approved by the legislature.
If you have other questions or have suggestions for new questions we should add to this list, please let us know!