Avoid on the ground pitfalls

Your land trust may be planning to acquire new conservation interests this spring. Initial inspections can be tricky.             

Here are some things to keep in mind when inspecting and investigating properties:

  • Compare surveys, plats and maps with on-the-ground findings and photos. Take note of where property boundaries are and any structures and activities (like mowing lines and debris piles) that are occurring near or on the boundary line. In one Terrafirma claim, a fence encroached a couple feet over the property boundary for 60 years unnoticed by the land trust, despite a survey showing the encroachment.
  • Bring something to measure areas with distances restrictions. Terrafirma has seen violations of square footage limitations missed by staff, or staff assuming the landowner’s measurements are correct. Land trust staff need to independently confirm measurement restrictions.   
  • Investigate any lease and license arrangements to understand the arrangement’s duration and renewability, and the parties’ current understanding of the arrangement. A party may still be using the property even though the arrangement ended, which may effectively renew the arrangement. Such continued use potentially opens the door to adverse possession challenges and could result in a loss of legal title or having to acquiesce to activities that may frustrate conservation purposes.
  • Don’t assume that a structure or use is permitted merely because it existed the first time you visit a property. Because of the elapsed time between the last inspection and the closing date, and a land trust’s relative unfamiliarity with the new property, landowners or neighbors may make last-minute changes.

We’re here to help! If you have any questions, please let us know.



Tom Kester
Operations Manager and Secretary
Alliance Risk Management Services LLC
Manager for Terrafirma Risk Retention Group LLC


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