Conservation Easements


Protecting the Land

When Bay Ridge residents purchased the Bay Ridge Woods to save it from development in 2002, they used a vehicle called a “conservation easement.”

Any piece of property comes with a “bundle of rights” to the landowner. By giving up the right of development to a qualified land trust in a conservation easement, the land can be protected in perpetuity. A conservation easement is a legal document recorded in county land records; it runs with the land forever.

In 2002, BRCA granted two conservation easements on the Bay Ridge Woods, alike in content, yet with one important distinction. In order to provide collateral for the bank loan, some of the property is covered by a separate easement, which is subordinated to the bank loan. If the bank were to foreclose on the loan, that part of the Bay Ridge Woods would not be subject to a conservation easement.  The rest of the Wood is protected under any circumstances. When we complete repayment of the bank loan, all of the Bay Ridge Woods will be fully protected forever.

In both conservation easements, the community owns the land, and a land trust holds the easement. In the case of the primary easement, holders are the Maryland Environmental Trust and the Bay Land Trust—now the Scenic Rivers Land Trust. The subordinated easement is held by only the Scenic Rivers Land Trust.

Both conservation easements note the permitted uses of the woods for “passive recreation” such as hiking, fishing and environmental education. They explicitly prohibit certain activities such as dumping, building, destroying wetlands, hunting, and using recreational vehicles that would disturb the natural environment, harm the forest, and compromise the conservation values of the woodlands. (See Big Woods Primary Conservation-Easement and Secondary Conservation Easement.)

Our Responsibilities

The conservation easement also describes the responsibilities of the landowner for being proactive in managing the property to ensure the health of the forest and preserve the conservation values protected by the easement.

By granting these easements we, as a community, are committed, in the words of the easement documents, to “preserve and protect the environment of the Property and to maintain permanently the open-space values and the dominant scenic, historic, cultural, woodland and wetland character of the property.”

What’s Allowed:
You can use the woods for “passive recreation” activities, such as:

  • Hiking
  • Fishing
  • Environmental education

What’s NOT Allowed:
You cannot engage in activities that would disturb the natural environment, harm the forest and compromise the
conservation values of the woodlands, such as:

  • Cutting any trees of any size
  • Cutting any vegetation, except invasive weeds (e.g., under our Adopt-A-Plot program)
  • Dumping of any kind, including yard trimmings
  • Hunting (only licensed deer management by the BRCA is allowed)
  • Building of any kind
  • Destroying wetlands