Conserved and Public Lands
- --What are Conserved and Public Lands?
- --Why are Conserved and Public Lands important?
- --What does the map of conserved and public lands show?
- --What do we need to know?
- --What are the threats to Conserved and Public Lands?
- --Setting priorities – what’s next?
- --Where can I find more information?
What are Conserved and Public Lands?
Conserved and Public Lands are properties which are protected from development using one or more of the following methods:
- A typical conservation easement is a voluntary agreement between a landowner and a conservation organization or unit of government whereby the owner relinquishes some or all of his rights to develop the property while retaining title and other ownership rights to the property.
- Fee Ownership of a property by a conservation organization whose interest in the property is to keep it in its undeveloped condition.
- Fee Ownership of a property by federal, state, or town government which may have competing interests for the property but is currently keeping it in an undeveloped condition.
- Other forms or protection are also be represented on the map of Conserved and public Lands
Why are Conserved and Public Lands important?
When open space is protected from development, natural resource features may be more reliably maintained for the benefit and enjoyment of the community. These features enable a property to provide clean water, vital and diverse wildlife habitat and natural communities, sustainable agricultural and timber production, and varied recreational opportunities. Significant scenic, cultural, historic, and geologic features may also be protected.
On Planning Board surveys, Plainfield residents have consistently recognized our natural heritage and rural character as important features of the community. Conserved and public lands help maintain the landscape, traditional land uses and economies, and rural character of the community.
What does the map show?
The map of conserved and public lands (429kb) identifies conserved and public lands in Plainfield and up to one mile beyond the town boundary which have a reasonably permanent level of protection from being developed.
Ownership types and acreages are shown in the table below:
|Ownership||Number of Parcels||Acreage||Tax Exempt Acreage|
|Privately-owned lands under conservation easement||17||2082.7||0|
|Lands owned by conservation organizations*||8||594.9||172.4|
Publicly-owned lands under conservation easement
|Lands owned by the Town or other government body*||4||175.4||175.4|
*May also be under conservation easement or subject to further protection
See Appendix C for more detailed information.
Conserved and public lands currently comprise 9.4% of Plainfield’s 33,914 acres. By comparison, such lands comprise 11.7% and 25.4% of Sullivan County and the State of NH respectively.
Approximately 21% of Plainfield’s conserved and public lands are property tax exempt, just under 2% of the town’s total area.
It should be noted that the Blue Mountain Forest Association (Corbin Park) is not included in this inventory of conserved and public lands. The association owns 3324 acres in Plainfield, almost one-tenth of the town’s area. All but a small fraction of their holdings are within the hunting preserve fence.
What do we need to know?
Identify and map additional properties that are protected from further development by other means, such as subdivision approval conditions, deed restrictions, or private covenants.
Initiate or review natural resource inventories on conserved and public lands to more fully appreciate and raise awareness of the conservation value of these properties.
Clarify which public uses, if any, are permitted on each parcel.
What are the threats to Conserved and Public Lands?
The holder of a conservation easement may have difficulty enforcing compliance with the terms of the easement. Easement language may be ambiguous, making it difficult for the parties to understand the intent of the easement and the land use restrictions it represents, especially over time or after changes in property ownership. The easement holder must monitor the property sufficiently often to guard against inadvertent or purposeful violations of the terms of the easement.
Conserved and public lands are as accessible as privately owned lands but, because absentee ownership is common, may be more susceptible to unpermitted uses and potential abuses by neighbors and the general public. This is a particular problem when the natural resource is fragile, easily disrupted, or not recognized by the public.
Government-owned open space land that is otherwise unprotected may be sold or converted to some other land use. For example, a town might use undeveloped land as the site for a new school, library, or other municipal facility.
In many instances a natural resource will be part of a natural system extending well beyond the boundaries of one single property. New development surrounding conserved or public lands may isolate the property and permanently remove the potential to further protect the natural resource value.
Setting priorities – what’s next?
Develop a comprehensive plan for conserving the town’s natural resources, using as appropriate conservation easements, other forms of permanent protection, and public ownership. The conservation plan will:
- Identify lands with fragile or unique habitats which give them special value.
- Identify lands with other natural resource features valued by the community
- Identify lands which, if also protected, would expand or connect existing conserved and public parcels, thereby compounding the conservation value of individual parcels.
- Identify the parcels which should be given priority for conservation should that opportunity arise, and contact landowners to explore the benefits of voluntarily protecting those properties.
Conservation efforts must find a way to balance the economic interest of landowners with the conservation value of the land. Educating landowners about conservation options and benefits should continue to be a focus for the Conservation Commission. However, the window of opportunity to conserve a particular parcel is often small. Consequently, having prior knowledge of parcels with special conservation value and having established relationships with public agencies and private organizations which can provide funding is critical to successful conservation efforts.
Where can I find more information?
Additional information about land protection can be obtained from the Plainfield Conservation Commission, Upper Valley Land Trust, Society for the Protection of NH Forests, or other conservation organizations. Specific information about Plainfield’s conserved and public properties can be obtained from the protecting agencies listed in the table in Appendix D.