Although many of TLC’s conservation properties are on private land in rural areas of Texas, we also protect land that is within or adjacent to suburban neighborhoods. We believe that it is important to work together with the community to foster understanding and respect of these protected properties.
What is a Conservation Easement?
Conservation easements (CE) are permanent legal agreements that protect the important natural resources primarily on privately owned property. Protecting these resources (e.g. water quality, agriculture, scenic value, and wildlife habitat) benefits not only the private landowner but the public as well. The CE agreement between a landowner and a qualified holding organization, like TLC, allows the landowner to continue to own and use their land, but it identifies certain use restrictions to help protect the conservation value of the land.
Because individual landowners have different needs and goals for the conservation of their property, each CE contains unique restrictions which reflect a balance between protecting the land and its resources and the personal objectives of the landowner granting the CE.
“Good fences make good neighbors.”
Just because land is protected with a conservation easement DOES NOT mean it is open and available to the public. It’s important to know who owns the land and respect private property. Land protected by TLC may be owned by private individuals, a subdivision’s homeowner association (HOA), or sometimes by TLC itself.
It most cases, protected land that is owned by private individuals is not open to the public, except for special events hosted by TLC or other partners. Protected land owned by HOAs is usually only accessible to the residents in that HOA. And land owned by TLC may or may not be open to the public. Again, for your safety and that of the natural areas that we protect, it is important to always respect private property. For example, the land may not be open because there is a hunting lease on it or there is a threatened or endangered species protected there. For protected properties that are open to the public or a HOA community, make sure you know where the boundaries are located, so you don’t wander on to someone else’s property. Most people don’t want others cutting across their lawn or walking through their backyard. To see a list of our open preserves, please CLICK HERE.
“A good neighbor increases the value of your property.”
We can’t tell other people what to do on their own property, but we hope that neighbors of our conservation easements will consider that what you do on your property matters.
Most of us recognize the potential harm in planting bamboo in their yard – it spreads at an alarming rate and, once it is established, it is almost impossible to control or remove. But there are other invasive and non-native plants that are readily available from nurseries that can quickly become a problem. Ligustrum or glossy privet, Nandina or heavenly bamboo, and Chinaberry trees are some of the most common plants that we see which have spread from a neighbor’s yard into our conservation easements. And don’t get me wrong, these are beautiful plants. However, they crowd-out our native plants and create a monoculture that does not contribute to a healthy ecosystem. Consider planting a native plant that provides the same qualities (color, shade, privacy, etc.) that you desire for your property.
If your HOA owns a conservation easement, please remember that it is not an extension of your personal property. Any potential changes – the addition or removal of plants, structures, etc. – in the protected property should be approved by your HOA, who will need to make sure that any alterations are consistent with the conservation easement. Think of the conservation easement as just another neighbor. You wouldn’t throw your yard clippings, cut tree limbs, or dog poop over the fence on to your neighbor’s yard, would you?
We encourage you to always practice Leave No Trace ethics when in the outdoors, whether you are at a nature preserve, on a trail in your neighborhood, or in your own backyard.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
If you live next to or near a conservation easement, congratulations! You can have the peace of mind knowing that it will always remain natural, providing habitat for wildlife and plant communities, as well as clean air and water and even flood protection for our community. As our Texas population grows and development increases, the impact and importance of conservation easements will only grow.
You can also do more in your neighborhood:
- Join the HOA board, and engage in neighborhood decision-making.
- Acquire certification (Texas Master Naturalist, Master Gardener, etc.).
- Volunteer to organize and recruit residents for a “clean-up the neighborhood” or “remove invasive species” day.
- Write articles in HOA newsletter (ex: What’s blooming now around the neighborhood, We are helping save Monarchs, Why leaves change color, The role of beneficial insects).
- Organize a photo contest of pollinators/plants/wildlife taken in your neighborhood.
- Propose/install pollinator “pocket gardens” as small scale demonstrations.