As notified in the previous edition of VISTA, Steep Rock Association has submitted an application for accreditation from the Land Trust Alliance, seeking recognition for excellence as a conservation organization. A vital element under review in regard to policies and practices is the stewardship of our conservation easements.
Conservation easements (or “conservation restrictions”) are legal agreements between a landowner and a land trust that permanently limits uses of the land to protect its conservation value. More detailed descriptions of easements and their benefit to both landowners and the public can be found in the Spring 1995 and Spring 2006 VISTAs, which are archived on our website.
Steep Rock Association has acquired 109 conservation easements since 1987, comprising roughly half of the land we’ve protected. For accreditation, we are required to monitor each of these parcels annually to ensure the terms are being upheld, identify encroachments, and document changes in condition. Monitoring is conducted during fall and winter in order to remain on a 12-month interval between inspections. In addition, these inspections are performed more efficiently once leaves have fallen and there is better visibility in forests. Please look for an inspection notice in the coming months if you are an easement landowner.
As manager of the conservation easement program, this task is by far the most consuming and rewarding. Several parcels are hundreds of acres and encompass Washington’s rugged hills. Others are smaller in size and less strenuous to traverse, but still serve their purpose, which may be to preserve a specific habitat type, contribute to a protected corridor, or promote working farmland. It is certainly a privilege to hike these private lands year after year to revel at undisturbed resources and applaud sound management efforts while a crisp breeze carries wild grape aromas and showers spent leaves that crunch underfoot. Sharing in landowner’s love for their property is equally special and I wholeheartedly welcome stories about the litter of fox pups that frolic outside their den or the demise of a historic mill. Interactions like these coupled with the knowledge that the eased land will be protected in perpetuity never fail to warm the gears for those most wintry of monitoring walks.