South Kingstown Land Trust’s land protection projects range from relatively simple donations of conservation easements on undeveloped land to complex public-private partnerships to acquire land for wildlife habitat preservation, groundwater or surface water protection, and productive use of farmland. SKLT has completed more than 160 land conservation projects since it began its efforts in 1983, resulting in the protection of more than 2,800 acres of land over the past 30 years.
Our land protection staff works directly with landowners who want to preserve their land. We’ll discuss the landowner’s goals for the project, and possible routes to get there. We protect land only when invited to do so by the landowner, and all our discussions are confidential until an agreement on terms of the transaction is reached.
SKLT consults with many landowners in any given year, providing information on protection options as needed. If a landowner is interested in either selling or donating land to the land trust, we will negotiate an agreement, based on the landowner’s goals and ours, and on appraisals and other analyses. For acquisitions, we will coordinate with our partner organizations to determine the best funding sources, and then proceed with grant applications and other fundraising, as we need to raise funds specifically for each acquisition that we make.
Our commitment does not end when the deed or conservation easement is recorded; it is just the beginning. Once the land is protected, SKLT then has stewardship responsibilities – the legal obligation to protect the land or uphold the conservation easement’s terms and conditions in perpetuity. For every project we do, SKLT needs to add an additional stewardship contribution to a pooled investment fund, to be used for monitoring, stewardship expenses, and legal defense. These funds are requested of land donors when the land is protected. Maintenance of these funds is essential to the long-term stewardship of the land and to the financial stability of SKLT. These funds are also required by the national Land Trust Accreditation Commission, which granted accreditation status to SKLT in 2016.
SKLT works in partnership with other conservation organizations, including The Nature Conservancy, Audubon Society of RI, US Fish and Wildlife Service, RI Department of Environmental Management (DEM), and the Town of South Kingstown, to save open space in South Kingstown.
In raising funds for each acquisition project that we undertake, our organization has successfully sought grants from the US Forest Service Forest Legacy Program, US Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, RI DEM Open Space local grants, RI Greenways Grants, Agricultural Land Preservation Commission, Town of South Kingstown Open Space Bond Fund, and The Nature Conservancy, including funds from the Champlin Foundations and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. SKLT has received grants through the RI Water Resources Board Wellhead Protection Program, through both the United Water Company (Suez Water) and the Kingston Water District. We have also received grants from a number of private foundations for land protection in addition to operations support, including the Rhode Island Foundation, and the Bafflin Foundation.
Even though our land trust has been working to preserve land in our town for over three decades, there is still much work to do. SKLT believes that preserving open space, forests, farmland, and scenic views not only protects the quality of our air and drinking water but also preserves the sense of place that our residents and visitors appreciate and that makes this community special.