Conservation & Open Space Planning
At Blue Mountain Environmental Consulting, we understand the challenges that landowners and managers face, and the tools that can be used to meet land use goals including conservation easements, grazing plans, NRCS Technical Services, Rural Land Use Plans and other programs. As a rancher, agency manager, residential landowner, conservation partner or owner of an exclusive property, we can help you navigate the thicket of incentives and regulatory programs to balance the needs of your working landscape. With decades of experience on rural lands, our roots are in agriculture.
We work extensively with the NRCS, numerous land trusts, county governments and the Department of Natural Resources to meet a variety of resource management needs. Contact us to discuss how the following services can help you achieve your goals.
Blue Mountain Environmental Consulting provides Conservation Easement Baseline Reports in accordance with Internal Revenue Service and Land Trust Alliance guidelines for landowners, state and local governments, and land trusts throughout Colorado. To date, Blue Mountain Environmental Consulting has prepared conservation easement baseline reports for approximately 55,000 acres in Colorado and Wyoming. We have worked with the Colorado Division of Wildlife as well as many of the land trusts and non-profit organizations in Colorado. Our experience spans the mountains and plains and we are well acquainted with the specific requirements of various land trusts for preparing baseline reports, which allows us to better serve the unique needs of each individual client.
What is a conservation easement?
According to the Land Trust Alliance, “a conservation easement (also known as a conservation restriction) is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. It allows landowners to continue to own and use their land, and they can also sell it or pass it on to heirs.” A conservation easement is a useful tool for owners of rural lands, including working farms and ranches, timberlands and recreational properties, who wish to protect valuable natural resources while retaining ownership of the property.
The conservation easement's purposes will vary depending on the character of the particular property, the goals of the land trust and the needs of the landowners. According to the Internal Revenue Code § 170(h) (4), permitted conservaton easement purposes include:
- protection of a relatively natural habitat of fish, wildlife, or plants, or similar ecosystem;
- preservation of open space;
- the scenic enjoyment of the general public;
- preservation of land areas for outdoor recreation by, or the education of, the general public and
- preservation of a historically important land area or certified historic structure.
Scenic resources, as defined by Scenic America, are “the visual attributes of landscape that include features having natural, cultural, social, historic, archaeological and recreational significance; and views that are distinctly characteristic of a region.” Characteristics of a property that contribute to significant public benefit include the intensity of development in the vicinity, the consistency of the proposed open space with public and private conservation programs in the region, the likelihood that development of the property would result in degradation of the scenic, natural or historical character of the area, and the consistency of the proposed open space use with a legislatively mandated program identifying parcels of land for future protection.
What is a baseline report?
A baseline documentation report provides detailed information about the property, such as the current condition of the property, developments, improvements and the conservation values (including relatively natural habitat, open space, historical, recreational or educational values), relevant to the terms of the easement, at the time the easement is transferred.
Learn more about the community of stakeholders involved in land conservation by visiting the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts, which promotes and supports land conservation excellence in Colorado. You can support conserved landowners' commitments to land conservation as a consumer by exploring Conserved Colorado's directory.
Blue Mountain Environmental Consulting provides Forest Agricultural Plans to landowners with 40 acres or more of forest lands in Larimer, Boulder and other counties along the Front Range of Colorado. Forest Agricultural Plans fulfill one of the required criteria for allowing landowners to achieve Forest Agriculture Classification per the Colorado State Forest Service. Once enrolled in the Forest Ag Program, landowners are eligible to sell their timber, which offers similar tax valuation as that of traditional agricultural lands. Additional benefits to participation in the Forest Ag Program include improved forest health, wildfire mitigation and enhanced wildlife habitat.
Blue Mountain Environmental Consulting provides NRCS Technical Services to landowners participating in the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) in Colorado and Wyoming. Our services include Conservation Activity Plans (CAP) for land treatments, forestry, wetlands, grazing management, forest management, wildlife, and agroforestry. Conservation Activity Plans are developed in close cooperation with the landowner and in accordance with NRCS guidelines.
Blue Mountain Environmental Consulting provides Grazing Plans and Rangeland Management for properties throughout Colorado and Wyoming. Our services include CAP Grazing Plans, noxious weed inventories and mapping per North American Invasive Plant Mapping Standards, and rangeland assessment to determine species composition and forage production. We have conducted quantitative rangeland assessments with a variety of sampling protocols such as the Modified-Whittaker plot, Forest Health Monitoring plot, double sampling to estimate biomass, and line transects. Blue Mountain Environmental Consulting has prepared CAP Grazing Plans for more than 25,000 acres in Wyoming. Noxious weed inventories are typically part of every stewardship plan. We have prepared noxious weed management plans for numerous State Parks and municipalities, Open Space properties, and most of our environmental planning clients.
Blue Mountain Environmental Consulting provides Phase 1 Environmental Assessments in accordance with the American Society of Testing and Materials Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments (ASTM E1527-05, ASTM E1528, E2247-08) and the within the scope of Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) throughout Colorado.
Phase 1 Environmental Assessments are suitable for private landowners, state agencies, and nonprofit organizations that seek complete due diligence responsibilities in a real estate transaction. An Environmental Site Assessment is designed to determine if there are any recognized environmental hazards on or near a property that could create liability for a landowner.
Blue Mountain Environmental Consulting provides Rural Land Use Plans for properties in Larimer County as well as other counties along the Front Range of Colorado. These plans assist landowners who wish to develop their property while maintaining their land in agriculture or other open space. The advantage of Rural Land Use Planning is that it enables homes to be clustered in one area of the property (on 2-acre or larger lots) thereby lowering development costs and preserving the remaining land in a conservation easement or protective covenant. Such preserved land is to remain free of development for a minimum of 40 years and be utilized for purposes such as agriculture, wildlife, and open space. This process allows you to benefit from your land financially by dividing it into smaller parcels and keeping the larger parcel for your continued use, if so desired.
Blue Mountain Environmental Consulting provides Open Space Management Plans for a variety of organizations in Colorado including reservoir watersheds, residential communities and other open space properties. Open space management plans are long-term strategic planning documents that address multiple resources including forest health, wildlife mitigation, rangelands, and noxious weeds and activities such as wildlife habitat improvement, riparian health, or recreational use. Our Open Space Plans typically include extensive input from landowners and managers and are designed to be implemented by these individuals. At Blue Mountain Environmental Consulting we utilize an ecosystem management planning process that develops long-term goals or desired future conditions based on current conditions, historical conditions, resource constraints and landowner objectives.
Blue Mountain Environmental Consulting provides Resource Management Plans for properties in Colorado and Wyoming. These plans are created to meet long-range resource planning goals for open space, to mitigate the risk of wildfire, to ensure that management activities are ecologically sustainable, and to integrate these directives with social preferences.