Annual Easement Monitoring
Easement monitoring is commonly done in-house by land trust staff. However, there are several advantages to hiring a qualified contractor.
The relationship between the land trust and the landowner can be difficult to navigate. The annual monitoring visit has a primary oversight component, even if cultivating a positive relationship is a close and related second. At the same time, many easement owners are also financial donors of the land trust, setting up a potential conflict of interest and some tricky power dynamics.
The contractor alleviates the conflict of interest that can develop. The visit can still build goodwill toward the land trust in the vast majority of situations, but there is no confusion regarding the purpose. Conversations between the monitor and the landowner are less likely to become emotional or to be construed as distrust by the organization. The contractor is just doing his or her job to fulfill the legal or organizational obligations of the land trust while making every effort to be warm, courteous, transparent, and professional.
If the contractor reports an infraction to the land trust, there is a degree of separation when addressing the issue with the landowner. Instead of following up on "accusations" made by the land trust employee, you have an independent party reporting a "claim". If the land trust confirms the claim, then you start with two expert opinions for making the case to the landowner that the infraction must be resolved. The quicker the infraction is acknowledged, the more likely it can be resolved quickly and cheaply without legal and emotional fallout.
Time is often limiting for land trust staff. With time freed up from easement monitoring, more can be directed toward building relationships with donors and easement owners in situations that are purely transparent, positive, and additive to the organization's mission. Examples might include increased time for landowner events and collaborative land stewardship projects.
For some land trusts, employing a benefited year-round biologist to complete seasonal easement monitoring might be considered a luxury. However, by hiring Land Steward Services LLC. seasonally, your organization gains wildlife and botanical expertise for evaluating land health and identifying opportunities for land stewardship projects. As the same time, you avoid the financial risks of adding additional full-time salaries.