The first step in the creation of a conservation easement is preparing a baseline documentation report. This report is a collection of maps, photographs, and written descriptions of the property, its natural resources, and the conservation values that are being protected. It is meant to serve as a reference that all future monitoring efforts will compare in order to determine if any unacceptable changes have occurred.
By integrating geographic information systems (GIS) software into our land conservation applications, we have been able to spatially divided all protected lands into three specific areas: 1) Resource Protection Areas (RPA), 2) Open Areas (OA), and 3) Acceptable Development Areas (ADA).
Resource Protection Areas usually have the strongest restrictions due to their environmental sensitivity. Examples of RPA's are riparian (stream) and littoral (pond) buffers, wetlands, and critical habitat areas (such as dunes, bogs, marshes, boreal forest).
Open Areas have slightly lesser restrictions, and are usually reserved for forests and grasslands whereby certain activities (mowing, planting, selective harvesting for firewood) occur.
Acceptable Development Areas have very few restrictions, but are spatially limited and well-defined. These areas can be set aside for creation, development, repair and replacement of home sites and accessory buildings (agricultural structures, garages, gazebos, etc).