The donation of a conservation easement is a major commitment for any landowner. Although tax benefits may result from such a gift, the primary reward for granting an easement is the knowledge that a cherished property will be forever protected.
In accepting an easement, the Schoharie Land Trust (SLT) is also making a major commitment. The Land Trust assumes the legal responsibility to carry out the donor’s intentions by upholding the terms of the conservation easement—in perpetuity. The generous gift of an easement to the SLT allows the Trust to further its mission of protecting lands which are essential to the rural character and natural resources of our area, but each easement also represents a perpetual obligation for the Trust. Although it would be very unusual for a grantor of an easement to violate the terms of the easement, the likelihood that violations will occur increases as time passes and properties change hands.
To fulfill our responsibilities, we monitor easement properties at least once each year to ensure that no violations of the conservation restrictions have occurred. In the worst case, SLT may need to defend the terms of an easement, perhaps through court action, the expense of which could be very large.
Purpose of the Stewardship Reserve Fund (SRF)
The Stewardship Reserve Fund has been established for the purpose of covering any costs associated with monitoring and defending SLT’s easements. As the Fund builds, it will also ensure SLT’s ability to take those actions necessary to uphold the terms of each easement.
It is the policy of SLT to request that landowners make a tax deductible gift to the SRF at the time of their easement donation. Easement enforcement is crucial to the success of any land protection program. Without diligent monitoring and follow-through, an easement program cannot succeed. When accepting a conservation easement, the SLT makes a commitment to protect the land in perpetuity. Contributions to the SRF help us keep that commitment.
Contribution to the Stewardship Reserve Fund
The amount of the contribution is based on our best estimate of the normal monitoring and enforcement costs into the future. The requested amount is 2% of the assessed valuation of the land, exclusive of buildings, with a minimum donation of $2000.00. In addition to the moneys contributed by landowners, all earnings on SLT investments are also credited to the SRF.