Litigation Services

Our extensive experience with conservation easement donations and stewardship lends itself to assisting landowners and their attorneys with a variety of litigation support services.  We can provide assistance by offering insight into how land trusts work to develop conservation easements, along with a variety of support for individual conservation easement donations.

Conservation Easement Development

With our natural resources experience, we are able to assist attorneys litigating conservation easement cases.

Our staff has worked to develop hundreds of conservation easement and baseline report documents and has implemented the many stewardship requirements of nearly a thousand conservation easements. By imparting knowledge about how conservation easement donations are developed at a land trust level, we can bring litigation challenges together with conservation easement creation. The processes used in the land trust industry for determining conservation values and documenting them may offer insight into the intent of the creators and offer new opportunities for addressing challenges in court.

Conservation Easement & Baseline Review

We have a registered forester and biologists on staff who specialize in the preparation and documentation of conservation easements. Our staff can review existing conservation easements and accompanying baseline documentation reports to identify any inconsistencies between the documents, conduct analysis of the document’s strengths, and assist in the creation of answers to specific IDR questions or participate as an expert witness.

  • Review and Analysis of Baseline Documentation – Review accuracy and comprehensiveness of habitat and species documentation and consistency with easement terms. The conservation easement and baseline documentation should correspond in every respect so that they work together seamlessly. We can provide suggestions for understanding and interpreting these documents together, along with offering the ability to supplement the baseline report with a current conditions report, etc. as you can see in our “New Documentation” service section.
  • Site Visits – We can conduct site visits on conservation easement property, either as part of our documentation review, or in conjunction with IRS agents and appraisers visiting a property. Our review of the documentation and understanding of the terms, restrictions, and locations within a particular easement could be very helpful as a litigation team and the IRS conduct on-site inspections.
  • Expert Witness Testimony – As part of this documentation and on-site review of individual conservation easement donations we may also assist by providing our expert opinion(s) about the conservation value and perpetuity of a given donation.

New Documentation

If new documentation, mapping, or imagery is needed to expand upon the existing baseline documentation, we can help with that too! As an example, there has been an increased demand for wildlife surveys to capture and document the threatened and endangered species that exist on protected properties.

  • Wildlife Surveys – Our staff can complete wildlife surveys in order to document the occurrence of wildlife species on a property. Our biological staff have experience with many different techniques and technologies that are available. 
  • Current Condition Reporting – Our staff can conduct site visits and produce a current condition report that would supplement the baseline documentation report in the event that a property has undergone significant change, or if the baseline documentation report is lacking key information. We often find that this is the case for properties that were protected when the land trust or qualified government entity was in its infancy, before standards were set, or following catastrophic events such as hurricanes or tornados. This can also be helpful during the transfer process to a new landowner or to provide more extensive documentation for litigation.
  • Documentation of Scenic Vista – We can utilize our staff and technology to evaluate and assist in the creation of additional documentation of scenic view sheds as a conservation purpose.
  • Esri ArcMap and Stewardship Mapping – We can provide clear and comprehensive custom maps and spatial analysis services utilizing GIS and associated software packages, including: Esri ArcMap, Google Earth, Gaia GPS, etc.
  • Drone Imagery – We hold a commercial FAA Part 107 UAV license and provide aerial photography, videography, and land mapping services using drones. Products include high-resolution orthophotos, 3D models, and digital surface models for use in GIS and CAD.
For more in-depth information on Wildlife Surveys, Click here!

Stewardship Services

Having worked to manage a portfolio of ~1,000 conservation easements, we have the experience to maintain and expand upon land management and conservation goals.

  • Land Management Plans and Plan Updates – We can create land management plans, often a requirement within a conservation easement, and a useful tool for managing land within the terms of a conservation easement. A land management plan should acknowledge and plan around the reserved rights and restrictions found within the conservation easement and be a useful tool for landowners in managing land that can adapt over time.  
  • Conservation or Public Use Plans – In addition to the creation of land management plans that fulfill donor obligations under the terms of their conservation easement or otherwise help to create a plan for land use, we can also assist by going a step further in helping landowners to further the conservation purpose goals of their easements. We can make recommendations for native species re-introduction and planting, mitigation of erosion or road maintenance, or even help you to establish various types of uses by the general public, such as community gardens or nature trails.
  • Annual Monitoring – Our staff can perform annual compliance monitoring of existing conservation easement properties in addition to, or in conjunction with, the conservation easement holder. This can include aerial and ground monitoring as well as the associated interpretation of the conservation easement deed restrictions, the written report, and any recommendation actions.
  • Hunt and Agricultural Leases – Our staff can assist landowners in creating, marketing, and managing hunting or agricultural leases on their properties.
  • Individual Easement Violation and Stewardship Resolution – Unfortunately, violations do occur. We can review individual or recurring conservation easement violations to help facilitate a successful resolution in accordance with land trust, federal, state, and local requirements.
Capabilities Statement

*Note: We cannot guarantee that there will not be an audit of the conservation easement, or that the conservation easement donation will qualify for a federal tax deduction and/or state tax credits. We will offer the best professional advice available to ensure the conservation easement and accompanying documents are accurate and in compliance with federal, state and local laws and best management practices.

** Note this is not a substitution for review of an appraisal report by another qualified appraiser, nor is this a guarantee of the accuracy of the valuation determined by the appraiser(s). We are not appraisers qualified to determine the value of a conservation easement but we do have extensive experience reviewing conservation easement appraisal reports and IRS Form 8283 for consistency with the conservation easement documents.