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The Model Grant of Conservation Easement and Declaration of Covenants with Commentary provides users with a state-of-the-art legal document and guidance to customize it to nearly any situation. No easement document has benefited from more real-world testing and peer review.
A conservation easement can only be as strong as the legal document—the grant of easement and declaration of covenants—that underpins it. Easement documents written today should take advantage of the innumerable lessons learned in easement projects across the country in recent decades. This is easier said than done. Very few people (or, for that matter, groups of people) have dedicated enough of their time to easement drafting (including understanding its stewardship and enforcement consequences) to be able to draft a quality document that optimizes conservation protections and ease of understanding while avoiding mistakes that others have unwittingly made previously.
The Model Grant of Conservation Easement and Declaration of Covenants with Commentary is designed for use by private land trusts, local and state governments, landowners, and their respective legal counsels. Thanks to the collective input of countless conservation practitioners, the model and commentary take full advantage of the lessons of the past and the best knowledge of the present. The extensive guidance that accompanies the state-of-the-art legal document provides users with what they need to customize the model to nearly any situation. Users can avoid the legal costs of reinventing easement documents and provisions, and can instead focus legal counsel on addressing issues truly unique to the particular project.
The model, now in its seventh edition, is informed by many years of regular and heavy use by land trusts, governments, and landowners across Pennsylvania and the nation. No conservation easement document has benefited from more real-world testing, user scrutiny, and cycles of peer review and improvement. The latest edition alone underwent six rounds of public review and critique before being finalized.
The model’s expansive commentary explains the reasoning behind every provision, offers instructions on applying the model to particular circumstances, and provides alternative and optional provisions to address a variety of variables. The commentary helps users understand the sections of the document where tailoring is appropriate or desirable, as well as provisions that are generally best left untouched.
The model provides for three levels of protection to deal with variations in conservation objectives across a property, but one or two levels can easily be removed for use with simpler projects.
Thanks to the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association’s generous donors, the latest version of the model, as well as the commentary and a quick start guide, is always available free-of-charge at ConservationTools.org.
The Pennsylvania Land Trust Association is deeply committed to supporting the model and commentary. Suggestions for improvements are always welcome. Please direct comments to the Association via phone, email, or web form.
Users benefit from the model in multiple ways:
The Association is deeply committed to supporting the model. It does so by:
When in doubt, check the commentary. It explains the purpose of each provision and, in many cases, provides alternatives that may be useful in particular situations.
The main body of the commentary follows the same article and section structure as the model. Captions preceded by numbers or letters refer to articles or sections of the same title in the model.
Although the model helps users avoid many legal expenses, be sure to involve legal counsel before completing a project. A good attorney will ensure that, given particular circumstances, the easement document does what you intend it to do.
The model is tailored to Pennsylvania state law, and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources requires its use for Department-funded grant projects. The model has been applied to numerous local government and federally-funded projects and has been adapted for use in states from Arkansas to Alaska.
Since each state’s laws and customs are different, users outside of Pennsylvania need to take particular care to modify the model to account for these differences.
The model is often adapted for the purpose of amending and restating a grant of conservation easement. The topic of amending and restating grants of easement is addressed in the commentary’s supplemental provisions as well as in the guide Amending and Restating Grants of Conservation Easement: Best Practices to Document Change.
The Pennsylvania Land Trust Association also publishes a model document for the specific purpose of protecting riparian buffers along waterways. The third edition of the Model Grant of Conservation Easement and Declaration of Covenants for Riparian Buffer Protection is based on the model grant described here.
The model was originally published in 2005. The seventh edition was published in December 2016.
Moving from the sixth to seventh edition involved extensive and intensive public feedback—in-person discussions, webinars, and postings of drafts (six in all) for public comment. The process ran from spring 2015 through fall 2016. The differences between the sixth and seventh editions and brief explanations of the changes can be viewed at the model’s page on ConservationTools.org.
With the addition of new optional provisions and explanatory material, the commentary was expanded by 42% for the new edition.
The model’s publication history is as follows:
1st edition – Jul. 2005
2nd edition – Apr. 2006
3rd edition – Sep. 2007
4th edition – Apr. 2008
5th edition – Sep. 2008
6th edition – Oct. 2011
7th edition – Dec. 2016
The Pennsylvania Land Trust Association published this guide with support from the William Penn Foundation, the Colcom Foundation and the Community Conservation Partnerships Program, Environmental Stewardship Fund, under the administration of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Recreation and Conservation.
Copyright© 2017, the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association
Text may be excerpted and reproduced with acknowledgement of ConservationTools.org and the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association.