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Most Recent Expectations for Improvement

Decisions to award land trust accreditation may be accompanied by expectations for improvement when the Accreditation Commission determines that the land trust must take action over time to improve compliance for certain practices. If an accredited land trust submits an application for renewal, the Commission will evaluate the land trust's progress toward meeting the expectations at that time.

In April, the Commission awarded accreditation to 11 more land trusts, bringing the total to 93. Soon after, they shared the set of expectations for improvement for the 11 newly accredited land trusts. The most commonly issued expectations were for Practices 3B, 10B, 11B and 11C. Here's a summary of those expectations for each of the practices.

Practice 3B. Board Composition
All of these expectations related to the implementation of a systematic process for evaluating board members individually. Note that Practice 3B is no longer an indicator practice.

Practice 10B. Appraisals
These expectations varied and included the following:

  • Using a template letter, information sheet or other written material to notify landowners of the tax code and appraisal requirements, including written notification that the trust will not knowingly participate in projects when it has significant concerns about the tax deduction (written notification made up the majority of expectations for this practice)

  • Ensuring that federal Forms 8283 are accurate and complete before signed by the land trust, including, for bargain-sale transactions, the amount received by the landowner

  • Using a letter to landowners or other acknowledgement that discloses whether the land trust has provided the donor with any goods or services in connection with the donation in compliance with the Treasury Regulations

  • Documenting transaction-related payments made to landowners in accordance with Internal Revenue Service requirements

  • Practice 11B. Baseline Documentation Report
    The expectations included:

  • Enhancing the evidentiary value of baseline documentation reports by adding information on the qualifications/experience of the preparer

  • Reviewing the documentation in older baselines and upgrading them as opportunities permit

  • Creating a complete baseline documentation report for a specific easement and attempting to secure the landowner?s signature on the report

  • For all future easements that contain restrictions related to existing structures, clearly documenting the relevant features of existing structures in the easement deed or baseline documentation report

  • Updating a specific baseline documentation report to include a precise definition of ?recent historical use? with respect to permitted water use on the property, and updating any other baseline documentation reports that do not include a precise definition of that term

  • Practice 11C. Easement Monitoring
    These expectations included:

  • Monitoring all conservation easements on an annual basis. For a number of applicants, the Commission clarified that the land trust?s obligation to monitor annually begins with the date the easement closes. (For example, if an easement closes in December of one year the Commission will expect the first monitoring inspection to be completed by December of the next year.)

  • Enhancing monitoring reports over time to include all the minimum and desired contents included in the Commission?s Guidance Document on this practice, such as the conditions during the visit and how the final conclusions were drawn (e.g. weather or ground conditions, routes of travel, portions of the property inspected, location of photos taken, etc.).

  • Monitoring all easements at least annually including, for as long as the land trust holds it, a specific easement, and keeping written documentation of the findings of each monitoring inspection regardless of whether it is for compliance monitoring, biological monitoring or other reasons

  • Thanks to Sylvia Bates, Director of Standards and Research at the Land Trust Alliance, for sharing this helpful information!

    If your land trust is considering accreditation, you may want to learn more about the Maine Land Trust Excellence Program and the Land Trust Circuit Rider services.