"We've had a marvelous third year of operation. Now it is time for the Trust for Land Restoration to start thinking about what it wants to be when it grows up."
Annual Report for
the Trust for Land Restoration
The Trust for Land Restoration's mission is to heal the last worst places by restoring, conserving and protecting environmentally significant lands degraded by mining or other human activities.
In June of 2000, members of the Board of Directors of the Trust for Land Restoration (at that time Jeff Kodish, Geoff Hoyl, Roy Young, Dan Platt, April Montgomery and Pat Willits, joined by our advisor Brownell Bailey) worked with outside consultant Will Murray to develop TLR's first three-year Strategic Plan. We were just barely a year old at the time, and we had just landed our first grant. TLR is now three years old, and we are two years through that first plan. How are we doing? What have we accomplished? What parts of that plan still make sense and what parts don't? Do we like the road we are on or don't we? What road are we on anyway?
As I review the 2000 Strategic Plan, I see how well our first two years work laid the foundation for the successes of this last year. I see that we did a good job envisioning and directing TLR's early years, our adolescence. And as I review the accomplishments of this past year, I get a glimpse of our potential. We've had a marvelous third year of operation. Now it is time for the Trust for Land Restoration to start thinking about what it wants to be when it grows up.
The Previous 12 Months in Review
Over the last twelve months TLR has taken our first three conservation easements, we have won three grants totaling $170,000, and we have entered into a contract to provide $22,500 of service to a Federal agency.
Three years ago we recognized that before we could move forward to restore abandoned mine lands, we had to learn how to maneuver through a legal obstacle course. TLR set out to untie the Gordian knot of environmental liability issues that we knew would hinder us. We knew these same issues were preventing land trusts across the west from being able to move forward on many land conservation deals. We very quickly discovered that not only are land trusts hampered by environmental liability concerns, but so are governments and government agencies, at the local, state and even the federal level. Two years ago TLR developed an environmental liability management policy and this year we relied upon it to acquire three conservation easements.
We have discovered that our environmental liability management expertise is highly prized by organizations outside our own. Thanks to the guidance given to us initially by Jeff Kodish via his patient counsel and well researched legal guide, and to the lessons learned and advice passed on by our legal team in the course of developing the projects we have taken on so far, TLR has developed a much better understanding of environmental liability management. We have learned how to systematically analyze projects and reach decision points quickly that tell us when we can move forward, and when we can't.
Over the last twelve months members of our team crossed the state and crossed the country: learning, listening, discussing and building support for the trust. This past January TLR was invited to Washington DC to meet with officials in the US Department of Defense. In May we sent Jeff Kodish to a national conference on contaminated lands. In May I made a presentation to the Southwest Regional Land Trust Alliance Conference in Moab. I was invited and attended regional conferences on hard rock mining in May and on Brownfields in June. This coming September I have been invited to speak at three conferences: Breckenridge, Durango, and San Francisco. And in October, at the Land Trust Alliance national conference in Austin Texas, Jeff Kodish and I are part of an all day presentation on Brownfields, sharing the podium with some of the most respected experts in the country on the subject.
After just it's third year in existence, Trust for Land Restoration can look back and be pleased with the progress we have made. Now it is time to look forward and guide TLR into the future.
I) Conservation Easements: The Principal Business for Most Land Trusts
The Land Trust Alliance defines a land trust as a nonprofit organization that, as all or part of its mission, actively works to conserve land by undertaking or assisting direct land transactions, primarily the purchase or acceptance of donations of land or conservation easements.
In the United States today there are over 1200 land trusts. Together these land trusts have conserved nearly seven million acres of land. Of this amount, about three million acres have been acquired by fee purchase and either then transferred to a federal, state or local government entity, or retained as a nature preserve or privately owned open space. The rest, over four million acres, has been land protected by conservation easement.
Conservation easements have gained considerable acceptance and respect of landowners, conservationists, government regulators, attorneys, tax accountants, and the public as an indispensable tool for those seeking a cooperative, non-confrontational approach to land conservation. Essentially, they are a set of deed restrictions voluntarily placed on private property by the landowner. Donors of conservation easements are often eligible for both state and federal tax benefits. On top of the potential of an immediate tax incentive, some landowners also use easements as an estate-planning tool.
II) TLR's First Conservation Easements
In the last seven months, three lands owners donated conservation easements to TLR on 1,155 acres of land. On the largest of the three donated easements, a beautiful 1,000-acre alpine meadow and woodland bench on the western flanks of the Cimarron Mountains in Ouray County, the landowner reduced his building density from 28 to three, gave up any right to develop coal on the property, and walked away with a sizable tax deduction. In turn, the landowner paid TLR $25,000 to reimburse our transaction costs and legal fees, and to fund the beginning of TLR's Stewardship and Legal Defense endowment.
Interestingly, donors of two of the three easements given to TLR were NOT motivated by possible tax deductions. Ouray County donated an easement to TLR covering the 150-acre Garard property in the Red Mountain District, and San Miguel County donated an easement on the five-acre Down Valley Restoration Project property because the funding sources required them too. In essence, Great Outdoors Colorado and the State of Colorado Idarado Resource Damage Fund required conservation easements on properties they contributed funds to help acquire or restore to assure themselves that the conservation values on those properties would be maintained under the watchful eye of TLR.
III) Land Trusts: The Institution in Institutional Controls?
In the parlance of contaminated property transactions, TLR's easements on the Garard and Down Valley properties represent "institutional controls" placed to see that the properties' conservation values are maintained in perpetuity. This is important, because people in the business of dealing with Brownfields and other types of contaminated property speak of institutional controls as a component of cleanup and remediation, but there is often disagreement over how to implement them. As Jeff Kodish reported one speaker recently putting it:
I am not sure I totally agree with this statement. Land trusts have proven that they can be the institution taking, monitoring and enforcing deed restrictions and management agreements that in essence are institutional controls. Conservation easements are permanent deed restrictions that stand up in court. Land trusts know how to set aside funds to endow the long-term maintenance of the provisions of the easement. I foresee a growing and important role in contaminated land transactions for land trusts willing to take the leap into this arena.
IV) Building a Stewardship and Legal Defense Endowment
With three easements now complete, TLR has $23,000 in its Stewardship and Legal Defense Endowment.
Land Trust Standards and Practices
The Land Trust Standards and Practices are guidelines for the responsible operation of a land trust, which is run legally, ethically, and in the public interest and conducts a sound program of land transactions and stewardship. The Land Trust Alliance (LTA) developed the Standards in 1989 at the urging of land trusts, which believe a strong land trust community depends on the credibility and effectiveness of all its members. So strongly does the land trust community feel about the value and importance of Standards and Practices that insurance providers demand that a land trust develop and adopt them before they will issue a policy. Also, beginning January 2003, LTA will only grant membership status to land trusts who have Standards and Practices in place.
TLR's June 2000 Strategic Plan recognized the need to develop these guidelines for our organization. In January of this year we received a GOCO Capacity Building Grant, part of which included funds to hire Jane Ellen Hamilton to guide us through a process to write, review and adopt a set of Standards and Practices tailored by the TLR Board to meet our needs. TLR will work during the last four months of 2002 to draft, adopt and implement a set of Standards and Practices tailored to meet the needs of the organization.
Mined Lands: the Brownfields of the Rural West
TLR Project Underway: Peru Creek
Since its inception in the mid-1990s, Presidents, Congress, cities and industry have enthusiastically supported the USEPA's Brownfield Program. Brownfields is a program offering liability relief to encourage the remediation and redevelopment of contaminated urban industrial sites. Last year, in Summit County's application for a Brownfield Assessment Demonstration Grant, TLR successfully made the case that abandoned mined lands are the west's rural, industrial legacy, and that the Brownfield protections ought to be extended beyond the urban setting to include these scarred and contaminated lands.
Summit County, with TLR as its partner, won a $250,000 Brownfield grant to develop a Brownfield plan for the conservation re-use of private mining claims in Peru Creek Basin. TLR's component is to manage the assessment, manage environmental consultants/contractors, oversee landowner contacts, guide public outreach, provide liability management consulting, and write the final report.
Last fall, the project conducted an initial private property screening. This spring, a prioritization process and landowner contacts narrowed to three the number of private properties to be included in a Phase II Environmental Assessment, leading to potential cleanup and acquisition in 2003.
TLR Project Underway: Howard Fork
The Howard Fork of the San Miguel River, near Ophir, Colorado, like dozens if not hundreds of other rivers and streams in the west, has been impacted and degraded by mining, most of which occurred between 1880 and 1950. Today, draining adits are among those remnants of historical mining activity that continues to discharge water contaminated by metals loading and acid rock drainage directly or indirectly into the river. Tailing piles and waste rock dumps, many located directly adjacent to the Howard Fork, represent the other significant source of metals loading. However, important distinctions between discharging adits and tailing and waste piles include both the applicable technologies available to remediate and the laws that govern the use of those technologies.
Generally, tailing and waste rock problems enjoy relatively straightforward remedies that fall under CERCLA legislation. Along the Howard Fork, landowners, the local community, and several government agencies, including the US Forest Service, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Colorado Division of Minerals and Geology, the USGS and the USEPA are cooperating to develop remediation plans for tailing piles and waste rock dumps. However, any similar plans or cooperation regarding cleanup of water from discharging adits have been stymied. There remains a profound need to develop, on the Howard Fork and elsewhere, cost-effective strategies to reduce acid rock drainage that also may be of interest to landowners not wishing to take on additional liability under the provisions of the Clean Water Act.
This past April, TLR was awarded $60,000 by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to analyze regional hydrogeology as it relates to mine workings which discharge significant heavy metals into the Howard Fork of the San Miguel River and recommend strategies to intercept and divert water away from mineralized zones. The study also includes elements critical to understanding the associated environmental liability issues: land use review, landowner and public outreach, and regulatory law and liability analysis. The two-year study received an added boost by the pledge of an additional $6,000 from local landowner Glenn Pauls and another $22,500 from the United States Forest Service in the form of a contract for consulting services.
TLR has hired American Geological Services, Lakewood Colorado, to perform technical consulting. TLR hired our own April Montgomery to manage the study and provide land use review, and to coordinate liability management analysis. And we hired our own Bob Moran to provide geo-chemical/hydro-geology expertise and review.
Trust for Land
The Trust for Land
Trust for Land Restoration