The closing of the agricultural conservation easement, while a momentous occasion, is just the beginning of our relationship with the land and the people who work with it. From that point on the stewardship department works to ensure that the condition of the land stays at the same level or improves from the baseline conditions that existed when the easement was closed.
One of the main stewardship activities that takes place in the years after it becomes an easement is agricultural easement conservation monitoring. The stewardship department conducts a monitoring visit on each easement, every year.
Prior to the visit we review the easement history, baseline documentation, management plans and previous year’s monitoring reports. When we are conducting the visit we are observing and taking note of changes on the landscape.
These notes can include impacts such as erosion and invasive species encroachment, or investments such as riparian planting and improved water or manure management. Stewardship staff discern between changes that are a result of ongoing management versus climate-related impacts.
Annually we have a chance to check in with the landowner or manager of a property. It’s an opportunity to see what things are going well for them, where they are experiencing challenges, and identify any opportunities to support their work with any of our small grants programs or refer them to other resources or agencies who may be able to offer support.
Every ten years, we do an update of the baseline photos that were taken during the easement acquisition process. This gives us the opportunity to look back and record longer-term changes.
The baseline documentation includes an inventory and narrative of all the resources — natural and man-made — on the property at the time of the easement acquisition. The condition of the pastures and plant communities, soil studies, creeks and water sources, are all described.
Our baseline documents go hand-in-hand with the management plans developed at the same time. The management plan guides the operators and MALT’s activities and makes recommendations for improvements.