Leveraging Easements to Ensure Connectivity
Across the Northern Appalachians, there are millions of acres under conservation easement, largely working forest easements but also easements focused on maintaining working farms, natural and scenic areas, and recreation access. As a viable alternative to outright purchase, an easement keeps land in private ownership while improving habitat connectivity by maintaining land largely as undeveloped open space, fostering sound and sustainable land management practices, and minimizing impacts on wetlands and waterways.
Most current working forest easements limit development, require a forest management plan, and encourage forestry practices that can improve landscape connectivity. SCI facilitates the creation of easements that also enhance landscape, habitat, and wildlife connectivity.
Land Conservation Success Stories
- Since September 2009, SCI partners have completed permanent land protection projects on more than 288,000 acres that contribute to landscape connectivity in the Northern Appalachians/Acadian region.
- Projects covering an additional 43,000 +/- acres of important lands for connectivity are in various stages of development, with closings anticipated over the next 1-2 years.
- Conserving Jackson Valley, critical lands connecting the Northern Greens to the Sutton Mountains of Quebec, demonstrates the value of this multi-partner initiative.
- USDA NRCS Farm Bill conservation cost-share programs, such as the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), now incorporate connectivity criteria in the evaluation of land parcels and project for funding. Working with NRCS, SCI partners developed ranking criteria and provided a spatial dataset to assist the agency in evaluating landscape connectivity values.
- Model language for Conservation Easements to address connectivity in the Northern Appalachians has been developed by the SCI team. The document includes easement terminology used to define landscape connectivity, habitat corridor, and landscape permeability, and describes how to address Conservation Values, Land Use Purposes, Use Limitations, Recitals/Whereas Clauses and Forest Management Plans.