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Forest Society gets $500,000 gift to monitor conservation easements

A longtime member of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests has given the group $500,000 to keep an eye on the more than 120,000 acres it has conserved through easements.

It’s one of the largest gifts the forest society has ever received from a single donor, said spokesman Jack Savage.

The money will not be used to buy more conservation easements but rather to monitor the easements already in place, Savage said. The donor wishes to be anonymous, Savage said, revealing only that the person has strong ties to the state.

The society holds more than 750 conservation easements, which allow landowners to keep their land but prohibits them from developing it. Some landowners grant the society conservation easements for free but many sell them.

But acquiring an easement is only the beginning. Savage said the society monitors the easement land regularly to be sure it hasn’t been cleared or built on in violation of the easement. Savage said the most common violations are unintentional and often committed by an abutter who inadvertently cuts or build just over their properly line.

There can also be confusion with an easement when a landowner sells the property and the new landowner doesn’t know all the restrictions on the land.

Savage said the society uses digital images taken from an airplane to monitor changes on easement land from year to year. The $500,000 donation will allow the society to continue those monitoring efforts, Savage said.

(Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 369-3323, or on Twitter @annmarietimmins.)

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