Frequently Asked Questions
Answers to questions frequently asked about the Conservation Land Stewardship Program.
CLS is happy to help if your question is not answered by the following FAQs. Please contact us by email. Every conservation property deed is unique. To answer any property specific questions you must consult the conservation easement document. Conservation Easements are public records that can be located in county registries. The following information is general in nature and not to be considered legal opinion.
Does CLS provide funding for land protection?
CLS does not provide funding for land conservation. The Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) is actively involved in funding protection of exceptional lands and cultural and historic assets on a statewide basis. A comprehensive list of projects they have supported can be found on their website. Additionally, some state agencies engage in land conservation projects where outside funding is available, or a donation is being considered. Lastly, the NH Land Trust Coalition is a clearinghouse resource for all of the land trusts and the work they do, including acquisitions. They usually seek donations or require outside funding sources to purchase interests.
How are LCIP and LCHIP different?
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 for a distinct and limited set of properties. The LCIP is a core component of the CLS program. Conversely, LCHIP is continually funded and thus 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. The CLSP was a new name created in part to avoid confusion between the two distinct programs with different agendas.
Does Perpetuity really mean forever?
Yes, unequivocally. And furthermore, no land can be removed from the "Public Trust", except in extreme circumstances, or as may be specifically allowed in RSA 162:C. In the 25+ years that CLSP has operated the five amendments that have been approved were for public safety or benefit purposes, such as a road realignment due to an unsafe condition. Additionally, there are IRS rules regarding the monitoring of properties for which a tax deduction was taken.
For properties protected through the municipal 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.
Can a conservation easement be amended?
No, in general. 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 at the property level, and for the program as a whole. To date no amendment for other than public safety purposes has been approved by the legislature.
Every conservation easement is considered a "charitable trust", and thus subject to the requirements of the Charitable Trust division of the Department of Justice. For more explicit guidance see Amending or Terminating Conservation Easements. Additionally, questions regarding LCIP conservation properties are subject to review by the Council on Resources and Development (CORD), as well as other layers of review. Some conservation easements do contain an affirmative clause relative to amendment considerations.
How often should an easement or conservation property be monitored?
The standard is to monitor annually, and in some cases it may be a requirement. Occasionally situations may require closer scrutiny and more frequent visits. More importantly, creating good reports and saving them securely is the best way to protect the Grantee's interests. Every monitoring report should include information gleaned from a conversation with the landowner. They are your primary source of information and are responsible for activities and changes on their land. Conservation easements where a tax deduction was taken may be required by the IRS to be monitored annually. Monitoring properly and adequately is important work and should be conducted according to industry standards. The several costs of not monitoring, or inadequately monitoring, can be catastrophic.
What is an Affirmative Right of Access?
Typically there are two main purposes to this section of a CE. The first is to provide the Grantee interest reasonable access to and entry onto a property for inspections as necessary. In the case of conservation properties that were funded with public money they almost always include a right for the public to access and enter upon the conservation property. Typically that access is limited to passive, transitory, pedestrian uses such as hunting, fishing, snowshoeing, nature observation, and like activities. Typically camping and fires are explicitly prohibited public rights. According to RSA 162-C:11, landowners with CEs allowing for public access cannot be held liable if a user suffers injury unless said injury is caused by willing negligence or malicious conduct on behalf of the landowner.
What is not included in an Affirmative Right of Access?
Dogs, horses, and bicycling are not "pedestrian" so they are not allowed except by landowner permission. Transitory in general means moving across the landscape, stopping at times. Passive also means leaving the landscape untouched, so to speak. The affirmative right of access also does not allow placement of game cameras. It does not allow disturbance of the natural or cultural resources. This would include activities such as cutting of any vegetation, trail building, organized activities, commercial guiding, or digging for artifacts.
Are motorized vehicles allowed on LCIP properties?
Generally, the landowner reserves the right to post against motorized access on LCIP properties. Unless expressly prohibited, they may use them themselves or allow others to use the property, as long as it is not contrary to any of the other purposes of the CE. On occasion, though seldom, a conservation easement may contain an affirmative right for a specific pedestrian trail, or a snowmobile route. State law requires written permission to use a motor vehicle on private property. There are laws governing the use of OHRVs – including ATVs – on certain categories of roads and trails. NH State Parks provides ATV information on their website, including OHRV Laws.
Is hunting allowed on CLS / LCIP easements?
Generally, yes. Though there are provisions relative to the Affirmative Right of Access that may limit some hunting activity. For information on hunting rules and regulations visit the NH Fish and Game website. Easements that were funded with public money typically have an affirmative right that allows the public to hunt, hike, ski and fish. This is one of the benefits that is derived from this money being distributed. Since state funds were a part of acquiring interests in the land, there is a distinct public access piece to state-funded easements. However, there are some exceptions! Often, there is language in easements that allows landowners to post certain areas, such as in their annual croplands during the planting and growing season and in areas to protect their livestock. Some of the municipally held easements, which were a donated match property as part of a municipal LCIP project, can post against hunting. Before going out, make sure you understand if and where hunting is allowed. Park in a safe location. Hunter etiquette suggests making a direct connection to the landowner builds a strong positive relationship and reflects well on the hunting community.
What are the categories and associated responsibilities of CLSP properties?
When the program began acquiring easements and fee simple interests, LCIP funds were divided between municipal projects and state projects. Municipal easements and conservation properties 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 by virtue of the expenditure of public funds. This means that CLS conducts periodic Field Visits to ensure the conservation purposes and values are intact. CLS also provides support and training services upon request or in conjunction with Field Visits.
State held easements are primarily held by one of three state agencies; the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department (NHF&G), the Department of Agriculture, Markets, and Foods (DAMF), or the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR). The Conservation Land Stewardship Program (CLSP) provides ongoing stewardship on many of these easement lands, including regular monitoring visits. We also actively coordinate our stewardship activities with the appropriate agency.
What is a good resource for land stewardship guidance?
The first step towards stewardship planning involves getting to know your conservation property better. The University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension is a great resource with an office in every county in the state. They offer a free landowner consultation with a field specialist. A natural resource inventory is often conducted to get a baseline to better understand the conservation values of the property. Good Forestry in the Granite State: Recommended Voluntary Forest Management Practices for New Hampshire is another valuable resource which can help guide the stewardship planning process. A well-written stewardship plan helps guide landowners and managers to make decisions that are thoughtful and appropriate to the purposes of the property. Good stewardship will protect or enhance natural resource values and benefit the greater conservation landscape and community.
Our town has a LCIP property, is there a specific resource to help us understand our role and responsibilities?
Yes! You can find A Conservation Land Stewardship Guide for Municipal LCIP Properties under the "LCIP Municipalities" Navigation panel.