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A small group of us -- most are members of accredited Wisconsin land trusts -- are addressing the missing half of a typical conservation easement: perpetual stewardship, namely how to maintain stewardship of the land across generations and owners.  This small group shares in common one thing: we all own prairies and lands with unique biodiversity, and we’ve all more or less dedicated a portion of our lives to their stewardship. We know firsthand that without perpetual habitat stewardship, time and benign neglect will erode and eventually erase the intrinsic features that give a woodland, bog, prairie, wetland, shore, savanna, grassland or any of these mosaics their unique and often irreplaceable nature.  Unless the property is owned outright by a land trust or agency with habitat management responsibilities or unless there is a corollary, large monetary endowment to fund habitat management, bad things will happen. The single annual monitoring that a land trust is obliged to do is generally limited to looking for violations of the easement such as new construction. To be clear, a conservation easement is an invaluable tool, but it does not protect against habitat invasives or other adverse succession effects. For that, you need muscle.

So, without heirs to inherit a conservation property, who will steward it into the next generation? Without a hefty cash endowment, what options does a conservation property owner have for succession? Well, we built a tool: This conversation jumped quickly from being an idea to becoming a website with the adroit help from two keynote speakers at the The Prairie Enthusiast’s Annual Banquet in 2015, Mike and Marcie O’Connor. Marcie’s illustrated presentation about moths was beautiful and inspiring; Mike’s drone flight over the theater audience was well – breathtaking!  Recently, their combined knowledge of website functioning and their tutoring brought to life.

We’re testing the old saying, 'Build it and they will come.' We’ll see if making it easier for conservation sellers and conservation buyers to find each other on a single, curated site has merit. It’s not unlike a dating service, finding a soulmate who shares old-fashioned notions of life-long commitment – except doesn’t charge a penny for its matchmaker services and it doesn't give out roses.  However, it’s also available to private sellers and agencies to showcase their own, credible conservation property without fee or obligation.

Hopefully, more and more land trusts will see it as a necessary service to their trust membership to provide an online page promoting ‘For Sale’ properties, ones which the trust itself is unable to buy outright. When they do provide it, will post the appropriate link on its State-by-State Directory, and if the stars align, there’s a good chance for another generation of active habitat stewardship by a new and committed conservation buyer . . . with muscle.

Please help spread the word.

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