Thursday, August 12, 2021

One of the simmering things: conservation easement

 I mentioned that I had several things simmering here, and this is one of them. We’ve been looking for land in the mountains to purchase for our mountain retreat dream AND that’s suitable to be put into conservation easement. One of my dreams is to help protect undeveloped land from future development, and it’s been exciting to look at several large tracts with an eye to doing just that.

We had originally narrowed our first boots on the ground look to three properties. One was gorgeous but nearly inaccessible, with no cost-effective way to get utilities to the top of the mountain. In some ways, this land is in unofficial conservation easement because it would be so difficult to make accessible. We loved it but we passed. The second was beautiful and surrounded by national forest service land. However, its proximity to forest service roads, and a questionable “public” road that ran directly through the middle of it, made it vulnerable to hikers, campers, and long-time hunters who would undoubtedly continue passing through the land. My idea of a mountain retreat doesn’t involve bumping into people with guns on my own land, and given the size of that property it would be near impossible to mark every bit of the boundary. So we passed on that one. The third property was my favorite from the moment we first saw it, and we decided to take a second and more thorough look.

This particular piece of land was part of a much larger tract - 3000 acres - that had been carefully acquired and conserved by a family who live outside the US. They saved the land from development and hired an extremely knowledgeable caretaker to curate the land for conservation. The 247 acres that were on the market had 318 documented native plant species, abundant wildlife, threatened bird species, and a number of very rare native plants. It had grassy balds and old growth forest. It was stunning. Because it had long ago been purchased by previous owners to develop, it had a road system that was professionally engineered and totally sturdy and safe, as well as underground electricity in place. Which meant we could easily choose a homesite and build on a small part of the property, then put the rest into conservation easement. We had already talked with the local land trust group who desperately wanted to conserve this particular piece of land.

We made an offer the day after we took the extensive second look. Shortly after our offer went in, our agent notified us that a second offer went in too, and we spent a few days going back and forth with tweaks to our initial offer. The out of country owners sent a message that they would take final offers by last Friday at 5 p.m. We tweaked again, and our agent asked me to write a personal letter to the owners detailing our plans for this property. I did so, and it was submitted along with our final offer by that Friday afternoon.

We waited. And waited. Finally, on Tuesday evening, our agent called to tell us that the owners were extremely moved by my letter and had struggled with their decision, but ultimately decided to accept the other offer. Which turned out to be a different land trust group who not only purchased the 247 acres, but the entire 3000 acres to put into conservation easement.

I can tell you it is possible to be happy and sad simultaneously. I loved that land, but I am truly happy the entire tract is now safe from development and will serve as a haven for native plants and animals forever more.

The owners have now offered us the chance to purchase a group of parcels they own at the far end of this newly-conserved 3000 acres. These parcels total to 370 acres, 200 of which are already in conservation easement. We need to look at it, and we’ll see if it fits what we want. Our agent has put a few more tracts on our radar as well, so the search continues. 

I really thought this was the land for us. On our recent exploration I glanced down and saw one of my most favorite native plants, one that I’ve only ever seen in books. Indian Pipe. 

I’m happy to know that it will grow undisturbed on this lovely land. And we’ll continue our search for the exact right place for us. 


Grey Horse Matters said...

It's a shame you didn't get the land you wanted. The land will be protected the way you intended so that's a plus. And you never know there may be an even more perfect place waiting for you that you haven't seen yet. I'm sure things will work out eventually. But I know it's hard to have your heart set on something and come so close only to be disappointed. Keep a good thought and your fingers crossed something will turn up.

billie said...

Today I’m consumed with an 1100+ acre tract in need of protection. :) I’m sure we will find it. Thanks for your support. :)))