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Here is information from the landtrust listserver on what can happen after a Conservation Easement is placed on a property.   Notice one element of a conservation easement not in the discussion, the landowner.

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From:  Elizabeth Richardson  erichardson@coloradoopenlands.org 
To: landtrust@indiana.edu

The larger issue here is how to manage our contacts with grantors so they aren't surprised when they realize that the easement will be made public.

We receive occasional requests to give out the specific boundaries for the easements we hold and sometimes for the names of the landowners. We do understand that an easement becomes public information when it is recorded.

However, in Colorado, it would take going to 64 county offices to gather it. To date, no one has attempted this brain damage. We believe if these boundary locations were collected into a central database, the information
will inevitably be easily accessible to any interested parties.

Has anyone created specific policies for their land trust about releasing boundary description and/or landowner name for conservation easements? As a starting point, we have pretty much decided we need the landowner's permission to release information about easements.

If you asked the landowner's permission, were they asked a simple yes or no question (e.g. Will you permit Colorado Open Lands to release the boundaries of your property to whomever requests it?) or was the landowner given options such as:

OK to give out the boun daries to be used on a small scale map. Only give out the pin point location but not the boundaries on a large scale map.

OK to use the landowner's name.

Only list the landowner as 'anonymous'.

Other

Finally, how much of a headache is this to manage the information if you have lots of different categories of permission.

I am interested in any thoughts on this issue and if you have a sample of your policy and/or the questions you ask landowners, could you email or fax me a copy?

Many, many thanks. Elizabeth Richardson


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From: Ann Schwing
Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2001 17:53:25 -0700

Some of the best publicity about conservation easements is generated by the news of a new one being agreed to, so I think it is fair for a land trust to assume the subject is public information suitable for a press release and to use the information in brochures, maps of protected lands and so on. If a donor makes a specific request that the easement or donation be kept confidential (to the extent possible with a recorded document), then the land trust should honor that request within reason (obviously, staff and board members, monitors and others will have to know about it). Absent a request for confidentiality, the information is suitable for the land trust to use to further the cause.

When someone from the outside asks for a list, however, the land trust should consider the person and the reason carefully. No one will appreciate being on yet another list to be solicited for donations and the land trust risks damage to good relations with its donors of easements or money if it releases information for that purpose. No one should have to have a donor affirmatively ask not to be disclosed to the professional scavengers who solicit money for worthy causes but spend most of the money on more solicitations.

So, my starting place is that the land trust is entitled to make use of the information to further the cause unless the donor says otherwise, but there is a duty to avoid creating burdens for donors by giving the information to
others.

Ann Taylor Schwin

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Hello List Servers

A response to the question about releasing CE info used the criteria that news about a CE is some of the best publicity the movement can get.  I wholeheartedly agree with that statement but I have a problem with that
being the criteria for releasing CE details, and especially publishing CE details in the media.  If the criteria that it is "good for the movement" is acceptable for land trusts, then it is acceptable for any other cause.  I
can think of several circumstances where this logic, applied by causes we personally don't agree with would be offensive to us.  I believe that most CE donors would like to help further the land trust cause, but each and
every donor should be asked before their CE details are made available to anyone who doesn't have the legal right to demand the information.  The possible damage to the land trust movement from a CE donor who feels
betrayed by the recipient of their donation could be a large detriment to our cause, larger than the benefit of the good publicity we might receive(people like to hear and tend to remember bad news).  Something I try
to keep in mind is that our middle name is TRUST, and the public must have no reason to feel otherwise about our organizations.

Russ Cowles
Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy
570-323-6222

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Of course, anyone has the legal right to demand the information. And even here in Downeast Maine (the land where down means up), it's pretty easy to get. Just go down to the registry and type Frenchman Bay
Conservancy into the computer and you'll get a list of every property transaction to which we've been a party. And each one of those easement documents includes a property description, a sketch map and the name and
address of the grantor.

The larger issue here is how to manage our contacts with grantors so they aren't surprised when they realize that the easement will be made public. I like to ask the grantor to write the newsletter article announcing the easement. It gives them a chance to talk about their hopes for the future of their land and their community. I'm often startled by the eloquence of these pieces. And, even if they don't want to write my newsletter for me, they're at least alerted to the fact that there will be one.

We do have a list of our easements that we distribute pretty freely. It identifies the properties by town and by a name which doesn't usually include the grantor's name. It doesn't give any additional location information unless the property is open for public access. I suggest that the exercise of common sense and clear communications can head off problems. I'd be reluctant to suggest to an easement grantor that this
information will be kept confidential when it's freely available to anyone who walks into the registry of deeds and looks it up.

Barb Welch
Frenchman Bay Conservancy