Conservation Innovation: Easier Easement Tracking With New Software

The main tool a land trust uses to preserve land is a conservation easement. This is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that allows a landowner set aside a parcel of land for conservation purposes – not urbanization – in perpetuity.

HILT works with landowners to protect areas with the highest conservation potential across all of our values - scenic views, agricultural resources, wildlife habitats, water resource areas, cultural and historical values, and outdoor recreation opportunities. As you can imagine, tracking these six values across our 43 conservation easements spanning nearly 18,000 acres requires a lot from our small field team.

There's always paper. Lots and lots of paper, from the signed easement document itself, to the communications, reports, summaries, and negotiations leading to the agreement. Then there’s the annual monitoring, activity approvals, enforcement actions, changes in ownership, and interpretations that follow the agreement. And, over time, these documents would get stuffed into folders and binders sitting on a shelf or locked away in a cabinet.

I often commiserated with stewards from other land trusts, who were facing similar pain points. Many of us had resorted to developing our own small-scale, custom databases when the market did not meet our needs to ensure the highest quality easement oversight.

Enter Landscape, a cloud-based land conservation software that is innovative beyond our individual systems. Now, HILT joins fifty other land trusts in streamlining easement monitoring activities with Landscape’s mapping capabilities, multi-user functionality, and integration with our current contact database and cloud file system. With a name like Landscape and features to match our multiple, varied conservation needs, it figures that the software developer was a former, fellow land trust professional.

The multi-user functionality is one of the most important features of the software. The number of easements we manage is growing and the work is becoming more than a single individual can manage. Tracking all of our projects in a single database will ensure a faster, more accurate and unified reported status of activities across the state.

HILT has already begun migrating to Landscape and hopes to be fully integrated by the year's end. While it may seem like a small tweak to our easement infrastructure, this technology positions HILT to respond to the growing urgency to protect even more lands from urbanization across Hawaii, while shrinking our filing cabinets in the process.

--James Crowe, Land Steward

Conservation tools like Landscape are part of the everyday costs of long-term conservation. Your support for our annual fund helps staff like James access the best possible tools to achieve the mission that we all share – to protect the lands that sustain us. Please consider supporting our everyday conservation activities through an annual gift to HILT.