In order to ensure that each easement property’s unique conservation values remain intact, VOF keeps up its end of this partnership in part by conducting on-the-ground site visits and inspection reports to ensure easement restrictions are being upheld. These visits become especially important when easement land is sold or transferred to a new owner or passed down to the next generation, who may be unfamiliar with conservation easements.
The Baseline Documentation Report (BDR) created prior to recordation serves as a “snapshot” of the existing property features and conservation values of each easement property. Going forward, VOF conducts periodic site visits and inspection reports in order to monitor the conservation easement, provide information and resources to landowners, and to document changes on each easement property.
Site visits provide an opportunity for VOF and landowners to stay up-to-date with the continued protection of the conservation values of the easement and are also a great opportunity for landowners and staff to discuss upcoming or future plans for various activities including, but not limited to, new construction, forestry and agricultural activities, management plan drafting, divisions or conveyances, and a variety of ecosystem service projects such as wetland or streambank mitigations.
In between site visits, VOF utilizes additional tools to monitor and document property changes such as aerial imagery analysis, county land records and deed research, easement landowner surveys, and notifications from counties, other state agencies and utility companies.
Prior to any site visit VOF stewardship staff provides notice to each landowner by phone, e-mail, or letter. Although it is not necessary for the landowner to be present, we do encourage meeting with the landowner or a property manager because you are often the best tour guide when it comes to walking your property. If meeting with our staff during any site visit is not possible, you can at any time contact your local stewardship staff to discuss any easement questions or provide notice of activity.
During the visit, VOF staff inspect the easement property, seeing as much of the property as possible. We are especially interested in documenting any changes that have occurred on the property since either the creation of the Baseline Documentation Report or the most recent previous site visit, such as new buildings or structures, forestry activities, or other changes in land use.
During a site visit, we document the property with:
- Photographs of buildings, structures, views of the property, natural features, etc., along with compass readings.
- Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) data to record photo locations and the sites of any buildings or features of interest.
- Notes on our observations and any comments from you on changes, plans, or concerns about your easement property.
VOF looks at conservation easements as partnerships with landowners who took the extra step to preserve a beautiful piece of Virginia. We know every easement is a gift to be treasured by all, and we look forward to working with you to protect these gifts.