Dedicated to protecting the land essential to Sheffield’s natural, scenic, agricultural and rural character
The Sheffield Land Trust
Celebrating 25 years • 1989-2014
P.O. Box 940, 96 Main St., Sheffield, MA 01257-0940
Phone: 413 229-0234; Fax: 413 229-0239; shefland@bcn.net

HOW DOES SLT CONSERVE LAND?

To ensure that we build a solid legacy of protected farms and natural lands in Sheffield, the Sheffield Land Trust (SLT) strives to be rigorous in its attention to each detail of the land conservation process, and to be courteous, clear and accessible to landowners, to the people of the town of Sheffield, to its officials, and to land conservation partners.

SLT pursues a strategic pattern of conservation throughout the town of Sheffield based on the principles of protecting land that is ecologically, agriculturally, or scenically significant. During its first twenty years much of SLT's work has focused on the Housatonic River flood plain, the Schenob Brook Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), on June Mountain, and on agricultural lands throughout Sheffield.

When discussing a new land protection opportunity, in addition to the principles listed above, SLT considers such questions as:

-- What are the conservation values of the property (i.e. agricultural, ecological, scenic, historical) and what are the benefits and risks to those values of protecting it or not protecting it?

-- What are the benefits and risks to SLT of protecting or not protecting the property? Issues to consider include: financial (i.e. fundraising capacity and effect on other projects, stewardship costs), legal, community relations, and likelihood of success.

-- How does the property relate to other conserved land in a larger landscape context?

-- What is the most appropriate role for SLT in this project?

-- What is the best and most cost-effective method to use?

Protection Methods

The appropriate protection method for each property emerges from a broad discussion of the above issues as well as the specific circumstances of the proposed project, qualities of the land and the wishes of its current owner.

SLT's preferred methods of conservation are to act as a facilitator in a transaction leading to conservation by other group(s) and the use of conservation restrictions (CR), but the range of conservation strategies that SLT may consider is outlined below.

Facilitator. In partnership with another conservation organization, state agency or the town, SLT may help

a) negotiate a deal;
b) develop a conservation strategy for a property; and/or
c) fund a project.

SLT would hold no interest in or stewardship responsibility for the property.

Fee Ownership. SLT acquires land through purchase, bargain sale, donation, or bequest. SLT maintains perpetual stewardship and management responsibility for this conservation property. (See SLT Stewardship Policy for information on endowments.) SLT may grant conservation restrictions on land it owns in fee to another conservation organization, agency or town.

Temporary Fee Ownership. SLT acquires land as described above with the intent to convey it to a public or private third party for conservation purposes. The property may be conserved by SLT prior to the transfer or by the third party after the transfer.

Partial Interest. SLT acquires a Conservation Restriction (CR), Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR), or other partial interest in the property. SLT maintains perpetual stewardship responsibility for ensuring compliance with the CR APR's are then transferred to the State. Recognizing the time and expense involved, unless the property is important habitat or abuts conservation or significant agricultural lands, we avoid parcels of less than five acres. SLT always establishes a stewardship endowment.

In its first twenty years, it has seemed prudent to SLT to co-hold CRs with a larger organization (BNRC, TNC, ATC, etc.) where conservation goals overlap, so that in the event of a violation or other problem, the financial resources of both SLT and the larger organization will be available to defend the CR.

Limited development. This method may be used in conjunction with one of the four conservation methods listed above. SLT would sell or facilitate the sale of a portion of the property for appropriate development to help fund the conservation of the majority of the original property. In its first twenty years, SLT has not done a limited development transaction.