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Our Greenville and Spartanburg offices have closed while Upstate Forever staff work from home to help protect the health of each other, our families, and our communities. But while we are not together in the office, we remain together in our continued efforts to protect our region's critical lands, waters, and unique character.
We at Upstate Forever cherish our relationships with the owners of protected properties, our partners in achieving our mission to protect special places in our region. If you are such a landowner, you are a part of a very special conservation community. We hope the resources on this page will not only serve to celebrate your land and your contributions to conservation, but also answer any questions you may have about land management within the terms of a conservation agreement. If you ever have any further questions, we hope you will contact our Land Trust staff.
Conservation Stewardship is the perpetual monitoring of land protected by a conservation agreement and, when necessary, the defense and enforcement of that agreement. It is only through this ongoing relationship with both the land and its owners that Upstate Forever ensures the permanent protection of a special property.
The foundation for good stewardship is a thorough baseline report, which is created at the time of closing the conservation agreement and signed by both the landowner(s) and a member of the Stewardship staff. This report captures the existing conditions of the property and, along with annual monitoring reports, can be compared to future developments to ensure that they are within the terms of the conservation agreement.
Stewardship is carried out annually through monitoring visits. A landowner will always be notified of the monitor’s intention to visit on a certain date at least two weeks in advance, unless there is some reason for concern that warrants greater urgency. If the timing of the proposed visit is unsuitable for any reason, the monitor will work with the landowner to find an acceptable date. The landowner is always invited to join the monitor on the visit, but can also choose not to do so. The focus of this visit will be identifying any changes since the last monitoring or baseline reporting visit. After the visit, the landowner will receive a letter and a monitoring report, documenting all that was observed.
Because we want to build a positive relationship with any new landowners who purchase or inherit a property, and since we want to ensure that all landowners understand their role in the conservation partnership, we monitor twice in the first year under new ownership. We may also conduct additional visits during periods of construction or development of the property, to gather information in order to respond to a reserved rights request, out of concern of a potential violation, or for other reasons.
Monitoring helps both Stewardship staff and landowners fulfill and better understand their role in protecting the property.
Each conservation agreement is unique, its terms negotiated to best protect the conservation values of the property and reflect the landowner’s plans for future management of the land. Some conservation agreements require the landowner to submit plans for approval before beginning construction of certain reserved rights, such as new roads or structures. We strive to make that process as efficient as possible, so landowners can carry out appropriate activities without delay. To do so, however, we need the landowner to relay all pertinent information. One way to do that is through use of a Reserved Rights Request Form, though any written request that contains all required information is acceptable. Once received, we will respond to the request within two weeks unless further information is needed in order to make a determination.
Even when no prior approval is necessary, some landowners choose to call us and discuss their plans to exercise a certain reserved right. This is always a good practice, as it allows us time to discuss what the conservation agreement does or does not allow, and to assure that both landowner and land trust are interpreting the document in the same way.
Occasionally, violations of the conservation agreement may be discovered. Often, these are inadvertent and due to misunderstandings. Whatever the cause, it is the duty of both parties to work toward resolution. Each circumstance and each property are unique, but Upstate Forever has an Enforcement Policy to guide and direct our response. Our first duty is to uphold the conservation agreement, but we strive to keep a positive, productive relationship with the landowner throughout the process.