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The Model Grant of Conservation Easement and Declaration of Covenants provides users with a state-of-the-art legal document. Built on a foundation of research that identified working (and failing) easement practices around the country and fine-tuned in response to user experiences and feedback over many years, no easement document has received more peer review. The expansive commentary explains the reasoning behind every provision, instructs on use of the model, and provides a wealth of alternative and optional provisions.
A conservation easement can only be as strong as the legal document—the grant of easement and declaration of covenants—that underpins it. Innumerable lessons have been learned in easement projects across the country over the decades. To maximize the conservation benefits delivered by a conservation easement and its durability over time requires easement drafters to prepare grants of conservation easement that are informed by these lessons. The Model Grant of Conservation Easement and Declaration of Covenants with Commentary embodies decades of user experiences and hard-gained knowledge in the use of conservation easements.
The model is designed for use by private land trusts, local and state governments, landowners, and their respective legal counsels. Thanks to the collective input of countless conservation practitioners, the model and commentary take full advantage of the lessons of the past and the best knowledge of the present. The extensive guidance that accompanies the state-of-the-art legal document provides users with what they need to customize the model to nearly any situation. Users can avoid the legal costs of reinventing easement documents and provisions and can instead focus legal counsel on addressing issues truly unique to the particular project.
Note that the model does not eliminate the desirability of legal counsel. A good attorney will ensure that, given particular circumstances and customizations, the easement document does what is intended.
The model, released in its official first edition in 2005, is informed by many years of regular and heavy use by land trusts, governments, and landowners across Pennsylvania and the nation. No conservation easement document has benefited from more real-world testing, user scrutiny, and cycles of peer review and improvement. The seventh edition alone underwent six rounds of public review and critique before being finalized.
Users benefit from the Model Grant of Conservation Easement and Declaration of Covenants with Commentary in multiple ways:
WeConservePA is deeply committed to supporting the model. It does so by:
WeConservePA approaches its maintenance of the model with rigor, always attending to key principles underpinning the model when considering changes, including:
WeConservePA provides training regarding the model at national and regional conservation conferences, at the Pennsylvania Land Conservation Conference, and via online or in-person workshops and seminars.
If you are new to the model, take a few minutes to review the Quick Start Guide.
The model’s expansive commentary explains the reasoning behind every provision, offers instructions on applying the model to particular circumstances, and provides alternative and optional provisions to address a variety of variables.
The commentary helps users understand the sections of the document where tailoring is appropriate or desirable, as well as provisions that are generally best left untouched.
An example of appropriate customization: The model provides for three levels of protection to deal with variations in conservation objectives across a property; one or two levels can easily be removed, and the commentary provides instructions on doing so.
Although the model helps users avoid many legal expenses, it is generally wise to involve legal counsel before completing a project. A good attorney will ensure that, given particular circumstances and customizations to the model, the resulting easement document will accomplish what is intended.
The model is tailored to Pennsylvania state law, and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources requires its use for Department-funded grant projects. The model has been applied to numerous local government and federally-funded projects and has been adapted for use across much of America.
Since each state’s laws and customs are different, users outside of Pennsylvania need to take particular care to modify the model to account for these differences.
The model is often adapted for the purpose of amending and restating a grant of conservation easement. The topic of amending and restating grants of easement is addressed in the commentary’s supplemental provisions as well as in the guide Drafting an Amendment and Restatement of a Grant of Conservation Easement.
WeConservePA is deeply committed to optimizing the effectiveness of the model and commentary. Suggestions for improvements are always welcome. Please direct comments to WeConservePA via phone or email.
The model was originally published in 2005. The seventh edition was published in December 2016. The latest version of the seventh edition was released in the fall of 2023.
Moving from the sixth to seventh edition involved extensive and intensive public feedback—in-person discussions, webinars, and postings of drafts (six in all) for public comment. The process ran from spring 2015 through fall 2016. The differences between the sixth and seventh editions and brief explanations of the changes can be viewed at the model’s page in the WeConservePA Library.
The model’s publication history is as follows:
Since the publication of the seventh edition, minor improvements were made in 2017, 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2023. The changes are itemized by WeConservePA and posted at the WeConservePA Library.