It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no it’s CLC in a plane. Once a year, CLC takes to the sky in order to monitor all of the lands on which we hold conservation easements. The aerial perspective is breathtaking. The county is split into vast green meadows and snow covered woodland slopes. The landscape is dotted with ponds, rolling hills, and working farms. These are all the features you see on the ground, only from this unique perspective you see how they are interconnected. From the skies there is a surprising amount of water, houses tucked away from the main roads, and a diversity of landscapes.
Conservation easements generally permit development in specific areas of the property and away from areas with the highest conservation values. Every easement is unique, taking into account the needs and wishes of the landowner and the natural resources of the land. Once the easement is finalized, CLC makes a commitment to ensure that the terms are upheld. We are bound to do this by state and federal law and the Land Trust Alliance Standards and Practices. A failure to uphold our easements would jeopardize our ability to accept easements in the future. Aerial flights are the most efficient way for us to regularly monitor all of the properties on which we hold conservation easements. By air, we can visit all 21,980 protected acres in just five hours. (We also visit every conserved property on the ground, every other year.)
We did our 2012 monitoring flyover on November 5. Staff logged 479 miles in the air that day, observing conditions on all 156 easement properties (plus a few prospective projects). We look for new structures and disturbances to the land, including tree removal and new bodies of water, and hope that all activities observed are in compliance with the easement terms. Happily, we confirmed that our easement landowners continue an excellent record of good stewardship of their land.
It’s inspiring to see our county’s natural beauty from above. This perspective not only helps us ensure that the conservation values each easement is designed to protect are intact; it also helps us appreciate the extent to which the county remains unspoiled, fueling our commitment to protecting our common resources.
CLC’s aerial surveys are made possible with the partnership of LightHawk, an environmental non-profit that champions environmental protection through the unique perspective of flight.