Protecting the Land

 

Part of the mission of the Southwest Mission Land Conservancy (SWMLC) is to help landowners conserve their land forever.  Often, landowners learn about us from friends or family with whom we have worked to conserve their land.  In other cases, properties become a priority for conservation based on criteria from one of our strategic conservation planning projects.  For these special projects, we make efforts to engage high-priority landowners through mailings and workshops.

We will protect land through a variety of methods, the most popular being a conservation easement. Conservation easements ensure that a property will never be developed and that the natural qualities will be retained. Yet under an easement, the land still remains private. SWMLC also protects land through acquisition by either gift or bargain sale, forever protected as a public nature preserve. For more information about conserving land with SWMLC, click on the Why and How links below.

 

        Why Protect Land

How to Protect Land

Conservation Properties for Sale

          Conservation Planning

          Resources for CE Landowners

          Spotlight on Recent Projects

Farmland on the Garside Conservation Easement

Terrafirma: Conservation Defense Insurance

When we protect a piece of land, we make a commitment to the landowner, the community, and to future generations.  We promise that special piece of land will be preserved forever.  Forever is a long time, so it is vital that we do everything in our power to keep that promise.  Enter: Terrafirma.

No, Terrafirma is not a natural resource superhero, but it does have superhero powers.  Terrafirma ensures that our conservation easements stand the test of time.  Offered by the Land Trust Alliance and owned and managed by participating land trusts, Terrafirma Risk Retention Group LLC is a new insurance program which guards its members against the legal costs of defending conservation easements in the case of legal challenges.  Believe it or not, conservation easements are increasingly under attack across America, and it is important that we are prepared to defend our easements if a challenge arises.    

The Terrafirma safety net removes the risk and uncertainty associated with high litigation fees.  Other land conservancies have encountered major legal conflicts — which typically arise with no warning — and a single protracted lawsuit can be financially devastating for a non-profit organization.  In 2008, estimated costs for legal fees were at least $50,000 for trial, $35,000 for summary judgment motions, and $50,000 for appeal.  Actual costs may be higher depending on the state and the availability of pro bono legal services.  Some documented legal cases have cost land trusts over $1,000,000 to litigate.  We want to ensure our funds are used to monitor our easements and preserves and protect new ones, not to fight legal battles.

While it is important to note Terrafirma is on its maiden voyage, over 400 land trusts have already enrolled in this collective defense program.  At year end 2013, SWMLC has protected almost 9,500 acres of land through 83 conservation easements.   With Terrafirma in place, we are guaranteeing these 9,500 acres will be forever defended and protected.   

The idea of permanence is the backbone of the conservation movement, and addressing threats to the permanence of our work is imperative in keeping the promises we’ve made.