Landowners play a critical role in everything we do in our industry. Above all, we first strive to understand the long term vision you have for your land. WLS partners with landowners to evaluate current natural resources, property value, and restoration (mitigation) potential. Before dedicating your property assets (i.e., conservation, development, farm programs, best management practices, fee-simple sale, bequeathing to heirs, etc.), we can help discover opportunities that will improve your land as well as expand your financial portfolio. See FAQs below to find out more about the process…
How does the process work?
WLS will guide landowners through the mitigation process to ensure a thorough understanding prior to making any commitments. To do this, WLS will implement the following plan and milestones…
*Evaluate your land for mitigation potential by allowing temporary access and explain the process in greater detail.
*After the preliminary site evaluation, we discuss restoration design concepts and show example projects and explain our roles and responsibilities.
*After estimating mitigation potential, we will present a legal option agreement and conservation easement deed for review.
*Survey, plan and design the restoration project to meet the land management and ecological needs.
*Record conservation easement and compensate the landowner.
*Construct the site and plant vegetation.
*Monitor and maintain the site until closeout after a five to seven year period.
What is a conservation easement?
A conservation easement is a voluntary, legal agreement between a landowner and a qualified holder that restricts the uses of the land within an agreed upon project boundary. Conservation easements permanently protect the land for environmental, recreational, historical, educational, or scenic purposes. Conservation easements do not grant public access nor do they restrict the landowner from selling or willing their property. Conservation easements can also be flexible to meet the specific needs of the landowner.
Qualified conservation easement holders include private landowners, trusts, local governments, soil and water conservation districts, the state, and certain nonprofit organizations. Conservation easements restrict some uses of the land, however the landowner still retains title to the property. The landowner cannot develop within the easement area or disturb its natural state. They can use the area for activities that do not damage the natural integrity of the area, such as fishing, hunting, hiking and other quiet enjoyment.
What are the benefits?
WLS directly compensates landowners who agree a conservation easement. Compensation is commonly paid on a per acre or lump sum basis. Compensation can also include property amenities and farm improvements such as cattle exclusion watering and fencing and stream crossings. In addition, conservation easements provide tax benefits (local, state and federal deductions) and may lower property taxes for relinquishing rights on the portion of their land that is subject to the easement.
Numerous environmental benefits are associated with dedicating a conservation easement. Restoration efforts can actually reduce flooding by providing water storage during flood events. These efforts also improve habitat for fish, amphibians, and other wildlife throughout the project area. This can ultimately benefit a landowner by reducing loss of land while improving water quality. Finally, restoration improve recreation opportunities, including hunting, fishing, hiking, and wildlife observation.
WLS typically identifies and evaluates a landowner’s property with degraded streams that have been historically manipulated, straightened or channelized. We also evaluate land that has drained wetlands and/or buffer vegetation that has been removed or maintained. Properties that qualify for mitigation can also be located near natural habitats, such as state forests and wildlife refuges, drain to water supply watersheds, wet pastures or drained/crowned fields, and areas that are adjacent to water-quality impaired streams, such as impaired streams that are on the state’s Clean Water Act, Section 303(d).