This month nearly 30 acres of forested land and streams in the South Salem hills were preserved for all time. The land, owned by noted Oregon artist and Willamette University art instructor Carl Hall and his wife Phyllis, was secured in perpetuity with a conservation easement.
A conservation easement means that though the land is still owned by the Hall Family, its unique environmental resources, deemed to have public value, will always be protected even when the property is sold or leased, or its title is otherwise conveyed.
“We know that many people love the land they own and want to see their forests and farmland protected from mining, subdivisions, and other developments,” says Mark Wigg, environmental consultant and vice-president of Northwest Land Conservation Trust, the group that facilitated the transaction. “We help these people meet their objectives by holding conservation easements that protect the lands they love.”
Northwest Land Conservation Trust, a nonprofit with an all-volunteer board, already holds easements around Salem. Other groups, including the Nature Conservancy, Farmland Trust, and Greenbelt Land Trust hold easements or own land in the mid-Willamette Valley.
Oregon law allows conservation easements on farmland, rural residential acreage and forests. There is no lower limit to the size of easements; they can be as small as a portion of an acre or a grove of trees on a large property. Easements do not need to allow public access to the land.
Some easements protect habitat for endangered species; some are designed to keep land in agriculture; some protect forests or groves but allow some cutting of trees – others do not allow tree cutting.
“Each easement is unique,” says Wigg, “but the commonality is that they protect a resource or resources that the public has identified as important.”
At an April 18 reception held at Hallie Ford Museum of Art on the Willamette University campus, locals thanked the Hall’s two daughters for the gift of the easement.
A Northwest Land Conservation Trust member says that three other property owners attending the reception expressed interest in establishing easements on their own land.