Look Again!

When was the last time your organization reviewed your stewardship policy? If it was pre-Terrafirma, it may be time to take another look.

Your policy likely describes how stewardship reserves are set, and it may advise landowners that the funds will be segregated and used only for monitoring and enforcement, not for daily operations of the land trust.

If you have Terrafirma coverage, you might consider adding language that makes it clear if:

  • Reserves may include a contribution of premium for the Terrafirma policy as part of the initial funding
  • Some of the stewardship funds will be used to pay for Terrafirma policies covering not only easements, but the land trust’s own fee properties


Have questions about policy drafting or anything else? Please let us know. You can email us directly or call 802-262-6051 for Leslie, or 202-800-2248 for myself.


Good things come in pairs!

We are excited to announce a pair of new features that should make life a little easier for Terrafirma member-owners – two steps at a time.

  1. There is a new quick and easy way to update claims on the Terrafirma website. After you submit a claim we ask that you send us updates every three months, up until now via e-mail. You can now just click the handy blue “Add Update” bottom at the bottom of each claim instead. This will make past updates easier to track, so you can see at a glance what you last wrote and when.
  2. There is a new payment option! In addition to the ACH transfer option that we announced in November, you can pay via online bill pay. See details here: https://terrafirma.org/payments

Please remember that Terrafirma applications and payments are due February 3, 2020. Land trusts awaiting a February Accreditation decision receive an automatic extension to February 24.

Have questions? Please let us know. You can email us directly or call 802-262-6051 for Leslie, or 202-800-2248 for myself.


Conservation Defense Coordinator
(202) 800-2248  |  


P.S. As we start the new year, you might want to sit down with your attorney to review your easement template. They should understand what it takes to implement stewardship, and your on the ground feedback is invaluable.


We made a list; please check it twice!

Santa isn’t the only one with a list. On the Terrafirma website you’ll find a list of the 13 eligibility requirements that must be fulfilled before your organization can join Terrafirma. These answers routinely come up when examining claims, so you want to be sure that you can give a confident yes to all 13.

If you are already a Terrafirma member and you are updating your application, you may be used to checking off "yes" to all of these without reading through carefully. This year, remember to revisit these eligibility requirements and make sure that you still satisfy all of them.

Please also remember:

  • If you are awaiting your February accreditation decision, whether first time or renewing, don't hit that submit button just yet! Please fill out your application and then hit "submit" once your decision is received. There is an $11/parcel accreditation discount that we don't want you to miss.
  • Check in with your bank to see how to send your payment via ACH transfer.

Have questions? Please let us know. You can email us directly or call 802-262-6051 for Leslie, or 202-800-2248 for myself.


Terrafirma payments are now online!

You can now use Automated Clearing House (ACH) transfers to pay your Terrafirma premium. The ACH is a secure network that is all digital. Terrafirma is all online: invoices, notices, applications, policies and payments. Starting with the 2020 application period – opening on Dec. 1, 2019 and closing on Feb. 3, 2020 – ACH transfers will be the preferred method of payment.

Terrafirma’s land trust members have increased to the point that payment processing is significantly more expensive. ACH transfers are better not just for the planet, but for keeping your premium payments lower. ACH transfers are also less risky than sending paper checks through the mail, with fewer opportunities for human error and oversight. Additionally, this new system will offer easier payment tracking!

Please note that an ACH transfer is not the same as a wire transfer. Terrafirma does not accept wire transfers. While ACH is free, wire transfers incur a fee both for Terrafirma and for the land trust. Terrafirma charges a $30 processing fee for any wire transfers received.

Terrafirma cannot accept credit cards, due to the expense of both processing and administration, as well as the price of having the appropriate controls in place to address the high security risk. These costs would be passed on to you, the policyholders.

You may be able to set up ACH transfers online with your bank by creating a transfer to an external account using Terrafirma’s account information. Alternatively, you can take this information to your bank manager to set up an ACH account to pay the premium annually.

We’re excited to bring you this new payment method. Have questions about ACH transfers? Visit our FAQ page or please let us know. You can e-mail us directly or call 202-800-2248.


Clear Thinking Replaces Confusion

You may be under the impression that you have to “think like a lawyer” when confronting legal challenges. But according to Michael Dorf, Professor of Law at Cornell University, there is no such thing – only “clear thinking and confusion.” That said, lawyers do have training to recognize three general types of legal questions:
Easy questions: These have straightforward, simple answers that you can look up in a book or on a website.
Complicated questions: These may have determinate answers, but to arrive at them one must first navigate considerable complexity, possibly from various sources of law.
Indeterminate questions: These questions – whether abstract or applied to a specific situation – have no one right answer, but a range of possibilities.
There is overlap between the categories, with some issues being partially indeterminate, and your question may not have a right answer. That does not mean, however, that there are no clearly wrong answers – because there are some very wrong answers. You can find a range of possibilities within legal materials, but correct answers must be within that range.
Adapted from Michael Dorf’s article, “Distinguishing Among Easy, Complicated, and Indeterminate Legal Questions”
September 23, 2019 | Tags:

All Together Now

Last month we wrote about common problem areas relating to division, and how no-division clauses can help. Here is why avoiding division is crucial not just for the easement’s habitat, scenic values and wildlife, but for your organization:

  • More owners means more chance of management related conflicts.
  • Property divisions within a conservation easement increase costs and burdens of extra monitoring and enforcement, including more paperwork. 
  • Subdivisions increase the number of landowners the land trust is responsible for maintaining relationships with; if a land trust is not able to devote enough resources towards landowner relationships and communications, violation risk increases.
  • Studies show that more landowners means more risk of violations generally. This is why Terrafirma will always count parcels with different owners separately.

Have questions about easement division violations or anything else? Please let us know. You can e-mail us directly or call 202-800-2248.



Don't Crack Up

There’s nothing funny about easement division violations. No-division clauses prevent a number of issues including land fragmentation, enforcement complications, damage to the easement’s habitat and scenic values, and barriers to wildlife movement. Proactive monitoring can keep your easements from cracking apart.

Here are some common division problem areas to look out for:

  • Partition of tenancy in common
  • Foreclosure of a mortgage encumbering a part of the easement property
  • Tax foreclosure of part of the easement property comprised of multiple tax parcels
  • Bankruptcy rejection of an executory contract
  • Landowners adjusting the boundaries in violation of the easement

 Have questions? Please let us know. You can e-mail us directly or call 202-800-2248.



Join the club! Submit a claim.

Each year Terrafirma sees an increase in claims. If you have already submitted one, you’re in good company – 281 other land trusts have too, or over half of Terrafirma members.

Accredited land trusts are the most likely to submit a claim. You don’t have to be accredited to be in Terrafirma, but 68% of members are.

Terrafirma received 204 claims for the 2018 policy year, up from 182 in the 2017 policy year. The 2018 grace period for submitting claims ended on April 30. Not sure when to file, or if you need to? You can see our handy primer here, and reach out with questions at any time.

Terrafirma members are doing their job by diligently monitoring issues and submitting them to Terrafirma in the claims year that they were first discovered. Thank you all for submitting your claims, and keep up the good work!

We’re here to help! If you have any questions, please let us know. You can e-mail us directly or call 202-800-2248 for Hannah or 802-262-6051 for Leslie.


Thank you,



Hold Your Place in Line by April 30

When you file a claim at www.terrafirma.org, you’ll see two options – one for a “placeholder” claim, and one that just says claim. Do you know the difference? You’ll want to know by 4/30, which is the deadline to file claims under your 2018 Terrafirma policy.

While both a claim and a placeholder claim satisfy the requirement to give notice to Terrafirma, a placeholder claim is not automatically evaluated and brought before the Terrafirma Claims Committee. 

When you file a placeholder claim, you’ll receive an e-mail every quarter asking for an update status on the claim. When you want to close the claim or have it seen by the committee, all you have to do is send an e-mail. There’s no need to switch status from placeholder claim to normal claim, or to re-file.

Don't wait until you have to hire a lawyer to file a claim. File a placeholder claim right away to make sure that if you need to switch the status to a normal claim, you can. Remember, if you don’t file 2018 policy year claims by 4/30, you will not be able to file them later.

We’re here to help! If you have any questions about when to file a claim, please let us know. You can email us directly or call 202-800-2248 for Hannah or 802-262-6051 for Leslie.


Thank you,


Conservation Defense Coordinator
(202) 800-2248  | 


P.S. The grace period for Terrafirma claims for the 2018 policy year period ends April 30 at midnight local time. Please remember to file any lingering claims from incidents that you first learned of between March 1, 2018 and March 1, 2019 by that day! Check out our handy infographic for more tips on when to file.


Let's Talk It Out

I’m sure you have heard that communication is the key to success. When it comes to resolving a Terrafirma claim, four groups must communicate well with each other: the member land trust, its attorney, the Claims Committee, and support staff for the Claims Committee.

Everyone wants an efficient and effective resolution. This starts with an early exchange to identify top issues and outline the options available to resolve the claim and uphold conservation permanence. As the claim progresses, frequent communication between all parties is crucial so that any problems or different points of view can be discussed right away. For especially tricky issues, the Claims Committee steps in to offer guidance.

The simple takeaway? Stay in touch!

Speaking of reaching out, have any questions? Please let us know. You can email us directly or call 802-262-6051 for Leslie, or 202-800-2248 for myself.




Hannah Flake
Conservation Defense Coordinator
(202) 800-2248  | 

March 04, 2019 | Tags:

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