With over 120 landowner relationships to maintain, our stewardship staff strives to be a resource to owners of conservation properties by distributing our annual Land Steward newsletter, fielding inquiries, providing natural resources expertise and information, responding to requests, and working to remedy any compliance issues.
Our stewardship staff members and Stewardship Committee (made up of our board members) work with landowners to respond to inquiries and project requests related to land use changes on protected properties. Our Stewardship Committee evaluates such project requests from a legal perspective, as well as how they align with scenic, wildlife, community and ranching values. Recognizing that each conservation easement, landowner, and property is unique, the thoughtful interpretation of each easement in response to these project requests helps clarify a landowner’s reserved rights to land use changes from those that were voluntarily relinquished through the terms of the conservation easement.
Resources for landowners and land managers:
Reserved Rights and Approvals
Each conservation easement is different and has different permitted and prohibited uses. The Land Trust is primarily concerned with how use of the property interfaces with the overarching conservation values identified in the easement, and is not involved in any private land ownership rights that are not addressed in the easement. We find it beneficial to both the landowner and the Land Trust to clearly communicate about the uses of the property. If a landowner is planning changes for their property, it is important to contact us and receive written confirmation that the proposed changes are approved. Some changes can be approved at a staff level, and some require the approval of the Stewardship Committee.
Landowner request forms are now available to take the guesswork out of this process. Please note that response times can vary depending on the nature of the request, so please notify the Land Trust as soon as possible.
Steps to receiving approval for land use actions:
1. Landowner submits written request (by landowner request form letter, or e-mail) to the Land Trust. Most projects require that plans and drawings be submitted for review.
2. Land Trust staff reviews request alongside easement terms to determine if use is permitted and supports the conservation goals of the property.
3. If further guidance or interpretation is needed, the request goes before the Stewardship Committee.
4. If approved by either the staff or the Stewardship Committee, written approval is sent to the landowner.
Because conservation easements are voluntary agreements with landowners, the success of our stewardship program and the integrity of our work depends on the confidence that the Land Trust will meet its obligation to monitor and enforce the easements in perpetuity. This confidence would be seriously eroded if the Land Trust were to allow indiscriminate modification of our conservation easements. In addition, amendments to conservation easements can have serious implications for U.S. Internal Revenue Service tax benefits. An easement donor who has claimed a charitable deduction for the donation of an easement may lose that deduction if the easement is amended improperly. For these reasons and others, it is the policy of the Jackson Hole Land Trust to hold and enforce our conservation easements as written. Amendments to conservation easements are authorized only in exceptional circumstances, and require a lengthy approval process which includes staff review and board approval.