Land has many uses.
Land use is a term used to describe the human use of land. It represents the economic and cultural activities that are practiced at a given place. Build a house on the land, use it for growing a variety of crops, fence the land in for livestock, sell it, inherit it, pave a parking lot over it, and the list can continue for the uses of land.
As a prospective landowner, I think about what I might use my land for. As a naturalist, I think about how the plants, insects, and animals are already using the land.
As a future land beneficiary, I think about the land as part of my southern heritage, especially the longleaf pine savannas that are scattered throughout New Hanover County’s landscape.
As a soil and water conservation district employee, I think about how that land can be best managed for everyone, including future generations. In preparing myself for land ownership, I balance these perspectives when making the decision about what the land use should be.
One option for land usage that protects my heritage, the ecosystem services, and conserves the land for future generations is establishing the land under a conservation easement.
You might be wondering what a conservation easement is and how you would create one? Simply put, they are voluntary legal agreements that will allow long-term protection of the natural resources of a surveyed and recorded property area. This allows someone to put aside areas of their property for conservation, while prohibiting development, farming, timbering, and mining. This does not mean the property is unusable, but instead can be used for low-impact recreation by the property owner such as hunting, fishing, hiking, or educational uses.
After a conservation easement is finalized, it is registered with a county’s register of deeds. These easements are perpetual, so they will remain in place even after a property is sold or a change in ownership occurs.
Restoration occurs on a conservation easement. In North Carolina, the Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Mitigation Services will plan, monitor, and work to restore the easement’s natural conditions in what is known as the mitigation phase. Data collection will occur for five years to make sure restoration is working as intended, and then the stewardship phase begins. During the stewardship phase, property owners are required to maintain the natural resources and condition of the easement to maintain its health.
The mitigation and stewardship phases are great tools and requirements that help make a conservation easement prosper. In determining the usage of land, consider a conservation easement for your property.
Hannah Bell is the program coordinator for New Hanover County Soil and Water Conservation District. Bryan Dadson is the conservation specialist for New Hanover Soil and Water Conservation District. Reach Hannah Bell at firstname.lastname@example.org or Bryan Dadson at email@example.com or 910-798-7137.