Land Protection Options
Land Protection Options
There are many different ways to protect the natural resource benefits of land. The Land Conservation Program primarily uses three:
A conservation easement (also called a voluntary conservation agreement) is a voluntary and permanent agreement between the landowner/s and the MCWD that describes specific restrictions on development and land use for that property. An easement is a binding contract that is filed in the records at the county in which the land is located. Terms of an easement are negotiated between the landowner and MCWD, and the current and all future landowners of that property must abide by the easement terms. Specific terms of an easement will vary in each case based on the landowner’s and District’s needs. The final determination of restrictions will determine the value of the easement. For example, if a landowner gives up significant development rights to the property the value of the easement will be higher than in the case of an easement where the landowner retains many of the rights. There is no requirement that a conservation easement allow public access to the property.
Learn more from our Conservation Easements fact sheet.
Purchase of Property
In some cases the property is of high resource value to the District and an easement is not an option, either because the landowner wishes to sell the entire property as is, or the District has an interest in doing significant habitat restoration or a capital improvement project for water quality on part of the property. In these cases MCWD purchases the property in its entirety, and either retains ownership to enable continued protection of the entire parcel, or installs the desired restoration or water quality treatment and resells the property subject to a conservation easement over that part of the property where continued protection is desired.
Habitat Restoration Agreements
The MCWD Land Conservation Program also provides cost share to landowners who sign up for various federal, state, and local agency agreements which include habitat restoration, wetland, or water body protection by installing different practices such as filter strips, wildlife habitat plantings and wetland buffers. These programs are often in agricultural areas and are designed by the agencies that hold the initial agreement with the landowner.
Cost Share Criteria
Projects that qualify for cost share must meet the following criteria:
- Restore and/or manage habitat that protects and/or improves water resources
- Include a landowner commitment to maintain the practice for at least 10 years
- Include at least a modest financial commitment from the landowner
- Be capable of delivering clear and compelling water resource benefits
What types of land does the Land Conservation Program seek to protect?
The primary goal of land conservation is to protect water resources in the District. At the same time we also look at features such as connectivity to other protected lands, habitat protection, and opportunities to work together with cities and counties.
"It's cheaper and more effective to make sure water coming into streams is clean than to treat contaminated water." - Michael Pressman
Some of the types of land we are interested in protecting include:
- Wetlands and wetland buffers
- Shorelands on lakes and streams
- High quality native landscapes
- Steep slopes near water-bodies
- Sites that connect habitat and hydrologic corridors
Property Evaluation Process
If a landowner is interested in participating in one of the land protection options the property is evaluated using the following process. While the specifics vary for each project these steps describe the general process.
1. Landowner or representative contacts Land Conservation staff, or staff finds a property listing on MLS.
- If you are interested in a land conservation agreement with MCWD the first step is to contact LC staff.
- LC staff with discuss with you the types of protection MCWD offers and how they can meet the goals and need you have for your property.
2. Initial in-office review of aerial photos, planning maps and natural resource layers (soils, land use, etc.)
- The LC Specialist will take a look at the property in the office including evaluation of natural resources on site, connectivity to other protected lands, and consistency with MCWD, city, and county plans.
3. Site Visit
- If the property is of interest for conservation LC staff will schedule a time to meet with the property owner on site to examine the property. This helps us get more information about property specifics.
4. Discussion about conservation options and interest in moving forward
5. Technical Advisory Committee review
- LC works with a group who serve as a Technical Advisory Committee who work in parks/open space, environmental, planning, and natural resource fields to get input on the value of conservation. This group reviews potential purchase opportunities to help prioritize properties.
6. MCWD Board review
- If the property has been evaluated as a high priority Land Conservation staff will take the property to the Board of Managers to discuss the possibility of negotiating an agreement to purchase the property or an easement. The Board must approve all property acquisitions.
7. Negotiation of final easement or purchase agreement terms etc.
- If the Board approves going ahead with purchase negations staff will need to do a Title search, have an Appraisal done to determine the value of the property and have a survey done.
- At this time staff will work with the landowner or landowner’s representative to determine the specifics of the Purchase Agreement. A Purchase Agreement is always contingent on final board approval.
8. Final Board approval
- The final purchase agreement, and easement if applicable, will go to the Board of Managers for final approval. Once the Board grants approval the closing can be scheduled.