Click on the links below for
more information about specific aspects of the project.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the New Haven River Headwaters Conservation Project?
The New Haven River Headwaters Conservation Project is a grassroots
project initiated by Lincoln landowners. Its goal is to maintain the
character and traditional uses of the town’s landscape (as articulated
in the Lincoln
Town Plan) by enabling interested landowners to collaboratively
seek long-term land conservation through conservation easements.
2. What is a conservation easement?
easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust
or government agency in which a property owner agrees to certain land
use restrictions in order to protect the land’s conservation values
When you donate or sell a conservation easement, you agree to give up
some of the rights associated with the land. For example, you might
give up the right to build additional residences, while retaining the
right to farm or to harvest trees (easements often include language
that permits construction of outbuildings, like sugarhouses and sheds,
needed for carrying out farm and forest activities). Donating or selling
a conservation easement often has significant tax benefits for the property
owner (see question #6 for details).
When you place a conservation easement on your land, you continue to
own and use your land and can sell it or pass it on to heirs. Future
owners will also be bound by the easement's terms. The land trust is
responsible for making sure the easement's terms are followed. A landowner
and land trust work together to write a conservation easement that reflects
the landowner's needs and desires.
3. What’s the advantage of a collaborative conservation approach?
Placing a conservation easement on a piece of land costs money, often
thousands of dollars. There are both federal programs and foundations
that provide funding to help cover those costs. Though a single parcel
of land is unlikely to attract such funding, funders are strongly attracted
to collaborative efforts to conserve land. Thus, collaboration allows
landowners to pool legal, appraisal, monitoring, and administrative
costs and attract funding. Also, neighbors benefit mutually when both
put easements on their land.
4. Has this conservation model been successfully implemented elsewhere
Yes! Landowners in Orange County initiated the Orange
County Headwaters Project in 2003. There, 21 landowners who own
25 parcels of land totaling nearly 3,600 acres in the towns of Washington
and Corinth have been working together to place easements on their properties.
Since 2003, the Chittenden
County Uplands Conservation Project (CCUCP) has worked to
collaboratively conserve working forests and farms in a 10,000 acre
area between Mount Mansfield State Forest and Camel’s Hump. As
of February, 2006, 12 parcels of land encompassing 3921 acres have been
conserved as part of the CCUCP effort, and a number of other parcels
are being evaluated for conservation.
5. Who benefits from long-term land conservation through conservation
Everyone does. For families, long-term conservation ensures that lands
with important personal significance will be protected. Conserving farmland
ensures that future generations will have an agricultural land base.
Foresters, loggers, and truckers benefit from the conservation of good-quality,
well-managed woodlands. Hikers, skiers, hunters, and anglers benefit
from the recreational access that is often a key piece of conservation
projects. The Vermont business community benefits from the conservation
of Vermont’s scenic beauty and rural character. Land conservation
helps communities achieve their natural resource goals, by protecting
the lands that do much to create each town’s distinctive character.
6. How would a conservation easement affect me economically?
A landowner sometimes sells a conservation easement (this is particularly
the case with qualifying farmland), but usually easements are donated.
This donation can qualify as a tax-deductible charitable donation. The
amount of the donation is the difference between the land's full development
value and conservation easement-restricted value.
A conservation easement can also be an essential tool for passing land
on to the next generation. By removing the land's development potential,
the easement lowers its market value, which in turn lowers estate taxes.
Whether the easement is donated during life or by will, it can make
a critical difference in the heirs' ability to keep the land intact.
In most cases, the easement does not affect property taxes.
7. What is the minimum acreage needed to participate in the New Haven
River Headwaters Project?
Generally speaking, 50 acres is the lower limit. That’s not a
hard and fast number—occasionally, if a piece of land has particular
ecological, cultural, or scenic value (let’s say, for example,
that it includes a popular swimming hole), or if it’s adjacent
to other conserved lands, it may be eligible for a conservation easement
even if it’s less than 50 acres.
8. If I place a conservation easement on my land, do
I lose my ability to actively manage my forest or farmlands?
No. One of the purposes of conservation easements is to allow working
forests and farms to remain working. Through the easement process, you
develop a management plan (which many landowners already have, through
participation in the Current Use Tax Program) and continue to work with
the land and gain income from forest and farm products.
9. I want my children to be able to live on the land and build homes
of their own some day. Can I allow for that and still obtain a conservation
Yes. Landowners often set aside a portion of their acreage for potential
future development before placing an easement on the remainder of their
10. If I place a conservation easement on my land, am I required to
allow public access to my land?
That depends upon the easement holder you work with. The Vermont
Land Trust and the Northeast
Wilderness Trust (two regional land trusts who have worked
in Lincoln) do not require public access. The Forest
Legacy program, a federal cost-share program that provides
funds for purchasing conservation easements, does require pedestrian
access, including hunting and fishing. We will work with you to find
an easement situation that meets your needs.
11. What role does Vermont Family Forests play in the project?
Vermont Family Forests has a decade of experience with forest conservation
and education outreach work in Addison County. Because of this, Lincoln
landowners who developed the idea for the New Haven River Headwaters
Project asked VFF to oversee the outreach and administration of the
project. As a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, VFF can receive and administer
any grant funds allocated to the project.