Land conservation is the long-term management and protection of land such as open spaces, forestland, or farmland. It can also entail returning land to its natural state. There are a number of ways to conserve land and prevent certain kinds of development from taking place, including buying land for conservation, conservation easements, and other tools.
What is the importance of land conservation?
Around 25% of global carbon emissions are captured by land such as forests and grasslands. Conserving forests helps combat climate change, prevents deforestation, supports wildlife habitats and biodiversity, and creates spaces for recreation and relaxation.
What are the different types of land conservation?
Some of the most common land conservation techniques include preservation, restoration, remediation, and mitigation. Our Forest and Conservation team is made up of natural resource management professionals, including arborists, foresters, and biologists. Across the team and leadership, there is experience working with land trusts, soil scientists, and in ecological and biological research settings. Better Place Forests’ natural resource management mission is to conserve and support healthy, resilient, and biodiverse ecosystems through active stewardship and monitoring.
Managing for biodiversity and resilience
For each of our forests, we work with local foresters on property-specific forest management plans. These plans outline how to protect and increase biodiversity and resilience. For example, prescriptive thinning and pruning can reduce competition for resources among trees and other plants in a forest. Invasive species treatment and removal can enable native species to thrive. Habitat stewardship and enhancement can improve the conditions for both flora and fauna. And, long-term monitoring makes it possible to measure progress or areas that require more attention. We have forest management plans for each of our locations.
Mitigating wildfire risk
In most of our forests, active vegetation management is used to mitigate wildfire risk. Examples of this management include forest thinning, limbing trees, slash removal, and controlled burning. These forms of management reduce the risk of catastrophic fire and are beneficial for the forest ecosystem.
Controlled burns utilize low-intensity ground fire on the forest floor. This is a natural method of vegetation management that reduces dense vegetation and ground “fuel.” Exclusion of fire and lack of management in many areas has led to increases in catastrophic wildfires.
Better Place Forests is creating America’s first conservation memorial forests — places where cremated remains can be spread at the base of a private memorial tree, all while the forest as a whole is being protected from development and other uses.
We are often asked, “What does it mean for land to be protected?” For Better Place Forests, it means taking several steps — a years-long process that we are committed to pursuing.
Cremated remains are spread at designated memorial trees within each forest property. Each memorial tree is evaluated for its health and longevity by an arborist prior to being designated as a memorial tree. The sections of the forest that include memorial trees are evaluated for soil health and water feature proximity. By limiting the number and location of memorial trees, Better Place Forests can control the locations and quantity of cremated remains being spread throughout the forest.
Cremated remains are never placed within identified wetlands or watercourses, and there are spreading buffers around certain water features in our forests. To ensure these protocols and other forest management best practices are followed, we develop Conservation Area Rules and Regulations tailored to each forest.
We’ve worked with local soil scientists, biologists, and foresters to provide their professional assessment of our spreading practices and their guidance to ensure soil, water, and overall forest health is maintained on the property.
When spreading cremated remains during a memorial ceremony, we mix local soil with those remains at a 3:1 ratio to promote decomposition and increase the spatial distribution of the remains, as recommended by consulting soil scientists. This mixture is spread at the base of each memorial tree. A small USGS-style memorial marker with a custom inscription is placed there, offering a natural-looking introduction to the forest floor.
We only work with cremated remains. However, in some of our forests, we are able to accept hydrolyzed remains, otherwise known as water cremation or aquamation.
These are our locations accepting hydrolyzed remains:
- Berkshires, MA
- Flagstaff, AZ
- Lake Arrowhead, CA
- Litchfield Hills, CT
- Rock River, IL
- St. Croix Valley, MN
In California, we’ve partnered with the first aquamation facility in the state, White Rose Aqua Cremation. We hope to develop more partnerships like this, and we’re advocates for more choice in end-of-life as states nationwide begin allowing new methods of disposition.
We will not sell land for development. Our mission is to inspire everyone to leave a meaningful legacy for the planet and the people they love. Conservation of land is at the heart of that mission.
We cannot guarantee what will occur outside our forests, but we can tell you that we choose forests in part based on their location within a region and a community because that space is conducive to a peaceful in-forest experience.
We have developed a multi-step approach to protecting our forests and customers’ rights. In particular, locally recorded licenses, our Stewardship Trust, and conservation easements are intended to carry into any future ownership of our forests — the goal being that no matter what happens to Better Place Forests, a forest that has secured these levels of protection would have preserved customer rights, funding, and a prohibition on development, respectively.
Early on in the acquisition process for a Better Place Forests location, we take multiple steps towards protecting the land, including seeking a partner to hold a conservation easement on the property.
We engage local land trusts to learn about local conservation efforts and build relationships that may lead to a land trust holding a conservation easement on the property. After we acquire a property, we continue to build a relationship with our local conservation partner, and eventually BPF will donate an easement and stewardship endowment to that partner. To date, Better Place Forests has built relationships with many land trusts across America, and multiple organizations have expressed an openness to holding conservation easements on our properties. While no conservation easements are yet held on our forests, we continue to strengthen those partnerships with a goal of placing conservation easements on all forests gradually and over time.