EVALUATING AND SELECTING PROJECTS
The Tierra Austral Land Trust (Tierra Austral) carefully evaluates and selects its conservation projects. In this comprehensive evaluation, Tierra Austral takes several key factors into consideration, including, but not limited to: 1) a Rapid Ecological and Social Assessment and/or other ecological and landscape inventories; 2) Land Conservation Criteria, described below; 3) the most appropriate conservation tool that Tierra Austral and the landowner decide to use to ensure the protection of the property (eg. Servidumbre Voluntaria agreement, fee ownership and management by Tierra Austral, management plan and/or agreement with landowner, conservation reserve designation under Chilean law, etc.); 4) the public benefit of conserving the parcel; 5) Tierra Austral’s financial, staff and technical capacity to perform the necessary stewardship responsibilities, and to protect the important conservation values on the property; and 6) any potential threats to the conservation values on the property.
Rapid Ecological Assessment/Ecological and Landscape Inventories
For any property Tierra Austral is considering protecting, it must be able to evaluate the land’s ecological, scenic, cultural, and historical significance. In order to ensure it can make an informed evaluation, every property must have been the subject of a rapid ecological assessment or more detailed inventories and surveys. If a rapid ecological assessment does not exist at the time, Tierra Austral in considering a conservation opportunity, the land trust will commission one, either internally or externally. The assessment, or more detailed inventories or surveys, must include information on the following features on the property under consideration, if available:
1. Landscape topography, unique topographic features
2. Geology, unique geologic features
3. Soil classifications
4. Vegetative cover and classifications
6. Water courses, aquatic ecosystems
7. Ecologically significant flora, fauna and ecosystems (rare, endangered, high quality examples of common species)
8. Landscape and species connectivity
9. Scenic views, view sheds
10. Buffer lands-- either part of, or a adjacent to property
11. Archeological features
12. Culturally and historically significant features and land uses
13. Existing or potential sustainable land uses, including agriculture, forestry, reforestation, landscape restoration, outdoor recreation (eg. trekking, kayaking, rafting, fishing, hunting, nature study, etc.)
14. Existing or potential limited residential development
15. Non-native flora and fauna (invasive terrestrial and aquatic species)
16. Natural and man-made disturbances, eg. erosion, landscape degradation, pollution
17. Need, opportunities for restoration, ecological management, mitigation
Before carrying out any land transaction, Tierra Austral will assess the relationship between the parcel in question and relevant land tenure and social issues that could affect the areas future management, the conservation objectives being pursued, and the land trust’s mission and reputation. At a minimum this will include an assessment of the following:
1. Land claims and land tenure issues affecting the property, including formal and informal ownership claims to the land, water sources, coastal spaces and resources, or other resources involved;
2. Existing or potential conflicts affecting the property, or which could affect conservation management in the future;
3. Any historic and customary uses by local peoples or others on the property, including extractive activities (e.g., non-timber forest products, firewood), trails, roads, etc.;
4. Social, political, or legal characteristics of the land which could result in future costs, such as the need for public outreach, conflict mediation, compensations, etc.
Tierra Austral will take particular care in relation to any lands that may be considered under indigenous ownership or land claims:
1. Tierra Austral endorses the principles of the ILO Convention 169 with respect to the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples (ratified by the Chilean Government). Among other things this requires consultation and the free and informed consent by indigenous peoples with regard to projects that may affect their lands and resources.
2. Tierra Austral will screen all potential conservation lands for indigenous tenure and claims. Because indigenous tenure in Chile is complex and lacking in simple and adequate legal definitions, the Board of Directors will specifically review any parcel that may be subject to claims in order to determine if it warrants treatment as indigenous land.
3. With regard to the following areas, Tierra Austral will only engage in conservation activities and transactions as a partner of the relevant indigenous individual, community or organization: those defined as indigenous under Chilean law, those with documented indigenous tenure, those with documented active and specific claims to indigenous ownership.
4. In cases involving large parcels where only a minority portion of the property may fall into one of the above indigenous categories, Tierra Austral will develop a project strategy that takes either of these approaches: a) addresses the affected area in conjunction with the relevant indigenous organization or individual, or b), if consistent with Tierra Austral’s other social and indigenous policies, restrict eventual transactions and conservation work to the non-indigenous portions of the parcel in question.
Conservation Project Evaluation and Selection Criteria
Tierra Austral has developed a Conservation Project Criteria (“Criteria”) that is informed by the features and issues listed above. The Criteria is designed to enable the land trust to evaluate the positive ecological, scenic, historic, and cultural qualities of the property, threats to the property, and existing landscape degradation and disturbances. The Criteria also enables Tierra Austral to evaluate potential conservation projects based on the property and project’s importance to the land trust’s mission. It represents a transparent and objective selection process that can be communicated to landowners, partners and others.
The property under consideration for conservation must include a combination of the following elements considered in the Criteria:
1. The property can be characterized as one with a a natural and undisturbed condition as one of its most relevant features.
2. The property contains rare, endangered, high quality, large, intact, or unfragmented terrestrial or aquatic ecosystems.
3. The property contains rare or endangered species of flora and fauna, or contains high quality and healthy examples of common native flora and fauna.
4. The property contains ecologically significant, healthy wetlands, flood plains, surface and groundwater sources, water courses, or other lands necessary for the protection of water quality or water-dependent recreation.
5. The property contains unique or outstanding physiographic or geologic characteristics (eg. large outcroppings, mountains, cliffs, canyons, etc.)
6. The property provides landscape and species connectivity, providing wildlife migration and movement corridors, or connectivity for species adaptation.
7. The property contains or has the potential to have ecosystems and species of scientific or educational importance.
8. The property contains scenic views or view sheds.
9. The property is visible from public roadways, waterways, recreation areas, towns, or hamlets.
10. The property’s location has been determined by Tierra Austral, government agencies, or partner NGOs as being of special environmental, aesthetic, cultural, educational or historic significance.
11. The property that has been specifically identified by government agencies or NGOs as being of high conservation priority (eg. Mediterranean habitat, primary forests, breeding grounds or rare species of flora or fauna, RAMSAR site, etc.).
12. The property is contiguous with, or in close proximity to, publicly or privately protected conservation or open space lands.
13. The property is contiguous with, or in close proximity to, lands already protected or being considered for protection by Tierra Austral.
14. The property is threatened with inappropriate or unsustainable development that would destroy its ecological, scenic, recreational, historic, or cultural value.
15. The property is of sufficient size that its significant features are likely to remain intact in spite of adjacent development.
16. The property provides a buffer for land in development for intensive forestry or agricultural uses, so that its protection would diminish the negative impacts of these intensive land uses.
17. The property is in current, or has the potential for, sustainable low impact land uses such as forestry, non-timber forest products, shellfish and algae collection and organic agriculture.
18. The property is in current, or has the potential for, sustainable aquaculture uses.
19. The property has high quality agricultural soils.
20. The property is in current, or has the potential for sustainable outdoor recreational uses (eg. trekking, fishing, hunting, rafting, kayaking, nature study, etc.).
21. The property is in current, or has the potential for, sustainable, limited residential development.
22. The property contains features of historical, cultural or archeological importance, or provides a buffer to properties of similar importance.
23. The property is important to a community as wildlife habitat or open space because of its proximity to developed or developing areas, or because of its significance in defining the character of a community.
The following elements may preclude Tierra Austral from pursuing a conservation project:
1. A Servidumbre Voluntaria agreement, management agreement, or outright ownership of the property by Tierra Austral would be unusually difficult or expensive to monitor and enforce.
2. Existing of planned development adjacent or in close proximity to the property would significantly diminish the property’s conservation values.
3. The landowner demands provisions in the conservation agreement that Tierra Austral believes would significantly diminish the property’s conservation values.
4. The property is included in, or affected by, a larger development proposal that would diminish its conservation values, and that Tierra Austral cannot endorse.
5. The property is unalterably contaminated.
6. Engagement with the property or its owner could significantly harm the larger mission of Tierra Austral, contradicting its values.
Site Inspections and Due Diligence
Tierra Austral will conduct site visits and inspect every property to determine whether it meets our project selection criteria and programmatic goals, to document the conservation values and public benefit, to identify any stewardship issues, and to identify any potential threats to the conservation values.
Tierra Austral will also research the title of every property and for every transaction, and obtain the deed, tax records, survey, maps, and other relevant materials (including planning and zoning documents), as available, to assist with the site assessment. We will use this information to determine whether there are any encumbrances or restrictions that could jeopardize Tierra Austral’s goals, and whether the property offers adequate access for monitoring and enforcement purposes. Tierra Austral will also take the necessary steps to determine whether hazardous or toxic materials may exist on or near the property.
Tierra Austral will determine whether it has the capacity and resources necessary to effectively conserve and steward the conservation values of a property and if issues exist that detract from the merits of the project. In addition to the Criteria listed above that might preclude Tierra Austral from moving forward with a conservation project, the land trust will also consider whether ethical, public image or conflict of interest problems exist in association with the project.
Tierra Austral’s Board of Trustees must review and approve every conservation project and real estate transaction.
Project Proposals in protected properties
For each potential new conservation project, a Tierra Austral Board member, staff person or consultant shall prepare a summary proposal of the project that is presented to the Board of Trustees for their review. The project proposal includes: background and history of the property and its ownership; the landowner’s goals for the project; a synopsis of the property’s conservation values; land use and zoning restrictions applicable to the property; an evaluation of any threats or negative impacts to the conservation values; any unusual or difficult stewardship responsibilities; the existence of any conflict affecting the areas and relevant social issues; maps, photographs, and other pertinent information to document the conservation values and public benefit of each property; and a recommendation from the Board member, staff person or consultant on the most appropriate conservation strategy.
Project Planning and Implementation
While all land and easement projects are unique and individually planned, Tierra Austral will have a similar procedure for the protection of natural resources, keeping a record of all the processes performed in the properties, considering between others the project planning, selection, approval, implementation processes, etc. Copies of these procedures are kept in each project’s file.
Board of Trustees
Tierra Austral’s Board evaluates projects on a case-by-case basis, and retains discretion to approve or decline projects. The Board will consider the analysis and recommendations prepared by a Board member, staff person or consultant, and any other available information concerning the proposed project and determine whether and on what terms and conditions the project should be approved.
ENSURING SOUND TRANSACTIONS
Government Regulations and Requirements
Tierra Austral ensures that every conservation project and real estate transaction meets applicable government requirements. Tierra Austral will obtain a legal review of every land and easement transaction by a qualified attorney with relevant experience in real estate transactions, Servidumbre law, conservation law, tax issues, and other applicable laws and regulations, and familiarity with the Land Trust Alliance’s Standards & Practices. Tierra Austral does not provide legal, financial or tax advice to parties with whom transactions are being contemplated and recommends in writing that each party to a land or Servidumbre transaction obtain independent legal advice. As needed for each transaction, Tierra Austral will secure assistance and expertise from appropriate consultants and technical advisors with expertise in financial, real estate, appraisal, title, tax, scientific, social, and land and water management matters.
Tierra Austral will ensure that all projects are consistent with its mission, provide a clear public benefit, and comply with applicable laws regulated non-governmental organizations in Chile. Projects that may be eligible for tax benefits or that involve public funding, will comply with any and all applicable government requirements. Tierra Austral’s Servidumbre agreements and other key templates clearly state the public benefits of each transaction.
For every transaction, Tierra Austral will evaluate whether there is a potential or perceived conflict of interest and adhere to our adopted Conflict-of-Interest Policy.
Costs, Roles and Responsibilities
Tierra Austral will advise landowners of the costs involved in each transaction and document each party’s costs and responsibilities.
Tierra Austral will document, in writing, our intended purpose, use and conservation tool for each land and easement transaction.
Property Boundaries/Surveys/Land Planning
Tierra Austral obtains a boundary survey and legal description for every land transaction. For Servidumbre Voluntaria agreements, the landowner is required to provide a survey and legal description of the property. Tierra Austral will verify the boundaries during a site visit and will ensure that the legal description matches the survey and closes (the starting and ending points meet).
The land planning for Servidumbre Voluntaria agreements, (eg. creation of Limited Development Areas, Conservation Areas, Service Areas, etc.) is clearly described in each Servidumbre agreement, and in supporting exhibits and materials, so that these areas can be easily identified on the ground by the landowner and Tierra Austral monitors.
Title Investigation and Subordination
Tierra Austral will commission a title search for every transaction, and obtain the deed, tax records, survey, maps, and other relevant materials (including planning and zoning documents) to assist with the site assessment. Tierra Austral will determine the legal owner of the property and whether there are any encumbrances or restrictions that could jeopardize the Tierra Austral’s goals, and whether the property offers adequate access. Mortgages, liens and other encumbrances that could result in extinguishment of the Servidumbre agreement or significantly undermine the important conservation values on the property must be discharged or properly subordinated to the Servidumbre agreement.
Drafting Servidumbre Voluntaria agreements
Tierra Austral uses model templates to ensure uniformity of language, clarity in drafting and compliance with legal requirements. Tierra Austral’s model templates are also designed to ensure consistency in interpretation and administration, and that every easement’s restrictions can be practicably monitored and enforced. Tierra Austral’s model templates shall be reviewed by an attorney on no less than an annual basis, and updated to reflect current best practices.
Every Servidumbre Voluntaria agreement is tailored to identify and protect the property’s important conservation values, document the public benefit served by the easement, and fulfill the landowner’s conservation goals and Tierra Austral’s project planning goals, while allowing only permitted uses and/or reserved rights that will not significantly impair the important conservation values.
Documenting Conservation Values
Tierra Austral documents the important conservation values and public benefit of each property in a manner appropriate to the individual property and the method of protection. For Servidumbre Voluntaria agreements, Tierra Austral’s Board, staff and / or consultants compile a Baseline Documentation report (see sample Servidumbre Voluntaria Baseline Documentation).
In the event that Tierra Austral owns and manages a natural area open to the public, the conservation values and natural resources will be inventoried by the Board, staff and/or consultants and detailed in a master plan produced for the site.
Tierra Austral maintains complete written documentation of transactions. Working files are currently at the offices of Patagonia Sur, and will be maintained at Tierra Austral’s office as soon as the land trust obtains one.
All land and easement transactions (that may include property rights transfer) are legally recorded at the appropriate Property Registrar (Conservador de Bienes Raíces) according to Chilean law. Tierra Austral will obtain valid and certified copies of all recorded documents.
Merger of Title
Should Tierra Austral become the Grantor and Grantee of a Servidumbre Voluntaria agreement, by acquiring a property for which we hold an easement, Tierra Austral will convey the Servidumbre to a qualified conservation organization. See Sales, Transfers and Exchanges of Land or Conservation Servidumbre Voluntarias below.
Sales, Transfers and Exchanges of Land or Conservation Easements
When engaging in a transfer or exchange of land or Servidumbre Voluntaria agreements, Tierra Austral will ensure that the transaction is consistent with the landowner’s intent, the property's conservation values will be protected, the new holder can fulfill the long-term stewardship and enforcement responsibilities, and the transaction does not result in a private benefit or private inurement. If the land or Servidumbre Voluntaria has an endowment, Tierra Austral will determine on a case-by-case basis whether it is necessary or appropriate to transfer the funds with the property interest. All files relevant to the property and transaction will also be transferred.