1. Take a look around you and see what you value in Bridgewater

You probably value the acres upon acres of open spaces and woodlands that grace our roadsides and the interiors of our wonderful town. This is actually the first step of the conservation easement process: Your recognition that Bridgewater is worth preserving. Now, think about a conservation easement as an option for your land holdings and tax planning.

2. Educate yourself about conservation easements

Familiarize yourself with the concept of Conservation Easements by contacting The Bridgewater Land Trust for an information package on easements or doing independent research. You should may want to consider attending a BWLT sponsored easement workshop which is held from time to time. Contact us for schedules or further information.

3. Decide how you want the easement to work for your land.

There are several issues to ponder: What do you want to protect? Should the land be kept in its pristine state — or be available for future landowners’ recreational enjoyment, such as horseback riding or walking? Do you want to allow public access? Should future landowners have the right to use the land for agriculture or silviculture? What rights do you wish to specifically reserve? Trails for access? The Bridgewater Land Trust can help you find the right balance between reserved rights and conservation goals. Remember: The limits and permissions will apply to all future owners of the land, and you need to determine how they should be constrained.

4. Know your property’s acreage

Every acre counts towards an easement, and it will eventually be recorded with the deeds to the property. So, you will need the services of a professional land surveyor to produce an A2 drawing of the property, the easement, and any zone that will not be part of the easement, including around your house. The surveyor will also play another key role — that of drawing up a hypothetical subdivision plan so that you can value the easement donation. This will be important to know if you plan to take advantage of the tax savings. Also, be attuned to the town’s zoning regulations. The Bridgewater Land Trust can provide a list of local surveyors, if you wish.

5. Decide to proceed with a conservation easement, then enlist the services of a good environmental attorney.

Your decision to consider an easement in Step 1 was based on pure emotions. Only after completing Steps 2, 3, and 4 can you determine with a degree of certainty if your property fits the criteria for an easement. Start early, and allow yourself about 5 to 6 months in advance of the new tax year. If you plan to take advantage of the tax benefits, then you’ll need an attorney or law firm specializing in conservation easements or having experience in this field. You’ll also be required to complete Steps 7 and 8. Your attorney can help you through all the phases of the process, and will draft an easement for you. (The BWLT also offers draft easements.) If you have a tax attorney, you may need to involve him or her to discuss tax implications. The BWLT can provide you with a list of law firms handling conservation easement work in Connecticut.

6. Meeting documentary requirements for your easement

You may find yourself doing some legwork for your attorney by gathering documentary support for your easement. You’ll need to obtain Bridgewater’s Zoning, Wetlands, and Subdivision Regulations and the Bridgewater Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD). Our Town Hall is already anticipating your request, and has a supply on hand for you.

7. Hire a naturalist

If you plan to take advantage of the tax benefits, you must engage a naturalist to identify any rare or threatened species on your property. He or she will inspect and photograph your land, which will become key elements of the critical baseline documentation report. The BWLT has a list of Connecticut-based naturalists.

8. Hire an appraiser

Like the land surveyor and the naturalist, the appraiser’s role is key. He or she will value the development rights of your property, and be armed with your draft easement plan and subdivision plan. The Bridgewater Land Trust can provide you with a list of area appraisers.

9. Easement day has arrived.

To finalize the conservation easement, you will meet up with several executive directors of the Land Trust, your attorney and a witness at Town Hall. At this point, you will be signing all of the official documents. Bring a pen.

10. Celebrate your good citizenship and spread the word

You’ve eased your land and should pat yourself on the back for doing your part to help preserve our town. Next, call up a friend or your next- door neighbor and tell them all about it, and encourage them to do the same.

We’re here to help

If you’d like help or have any questions regarding conservation easements in our town, contact The Bridgewater Land Trust Office Phone: 860-355-8233 E-Mail: at Mailing Address: P.O. Box 8 Bridgewater, CT 06752 We’re happy to guide you in making the right decision about your land.

“Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land.” – Aldo Leopold, Co-founder of The Wilderness Society, Father of Wildlife Conservation, U.S.A.