Land stewardship involves the responsible planning and management of protected properties. Hilltown Land Trust stewards 5,000 acres of permanently protected land including 9 conservation areas that we own and 34 properties in private ownership where we hold conservation restrictions (CRs). Additional properties are added to this list each year as we protect additional land. We strive to manage these lands for the benefit of the natural systems they support while also offering opportunities for public use and enjoyment of these areas.
When landowners place conservation restrictions on their land with HLT, we are responsible for visiting the property annually and enforcing the terms of the restriction forever. Each CR has a baseline report documenting the conditions of the property at the time it is protected. Walking each CR property annually allows us to make sure that the conservation values are intact, and allows us to note any natural or man-made changes to the property. Regular monitoring helps HLT address issues such as invasive species or unproductive human encroachment in a timely manner. Monitoring visits also give us the opportunity to connect with the landowners and discuss resource management options and rights retained by the landowner. Occasionally, HLT must work with landowners to enforce and resolve any violations of the terms of a conservation restriction. This is part of our legal obligation as the holder of a CR.
Conservation restrictions ownership and monitoring are further detailed in our Conservation Restriction Landowner Handbook.
Land stewardship at HLT also involves management of the conservation lands we own. This includes building and maintaining trails, marking property boundaries, removing invasive species and occasional timber harvesting based on a long-term forestry plan.
Monitoring all of HLT’s protected lands is a prodigious task that we are able to accomplish with a team of dedicated and experienced volunteers coordinated by our TerraCorps Land Stewardship Coordinator. If you are interested in getting to know our protected properties better, becoming a volunteer land steward is a great opportunity.
HLT’s CRs and conservation areas are protected forever making land stewardship a long-term financial commitment. Most of our property monitoring and stewardship work is funded through a stewardship gift provided by each donor of a CR or conservation area. Accredited land trusts such as HLT are required to have such stewardship funds. However, not all of those who are donating land or a CR to HLT can afford such a gift after they have just donated a considerable land asset. HLT works hard to make up the difference when needed through grants and private donations.