When the Conservation Easement Program (CEP) was created in 1999 to protect the Community Forest Lands from logging, mining or commercial development, the City worked with Skagit Land Trust and the Friends of the Forest to make it a success. Through the CEP the City accepted donations from community members and in turn conservation easements were placed on the deeds for the land. Since 1999, 26 separate easements protecting 1,680 acres were processed by the City and Skagit Land Trust and recorded with Skagit County. This is a great achievement and a testament to the special value the Community Forest Lands holds for local residents.
Under the CEP, the City owns and manages the Forest Lands. Skagit Land Trust holds the conservation easements and guarantees the easement agreements are not violated. You can view the conservation easement agreements here. If concerns arise about the program or about specific land that is conserved, the Land Trust staff and City staff review the issue together. The City pays the Land Trust a one-time fee of $25 per acre when deeds are recorded. This is held by the Land Trust in a conservation easement stewardship fund.
Moving forward, Skagit Land Trust has recommended that we modernize the provisions of these documents and create one single conservation easement deed for protected acreage in the Community Forest Lands. Updating the easements in this way would allow for the correction of past clerical errors in legal descriptions and/or maps. It would also provide one single easement for future reference and additions, making administration simpler. This is particularly the case now that most of the eligible acreage has been conserved. This update will not alter the amount or location of land currently conserved by the conservation easement.
City staff is now working with Skagit Land Trust on an agreement to update the easements in this manner. A scope of work is being prepared and reviewed by Parks and Recreation and Legal staff. The draft agreement will be presented to our City Council for consideration in the next six months.