WHAT IS MITIGATION?
Mitigation is the preservation, enhancement, restoration, or creation of important ecological lands and resources which offsets or compensates for loss of similar habitat elsewhere. At Magnolia, the majority of our conservation and restoration projects are funded through mitigation channels and developed in collaboration with private landowners, local environmental organizations, and government entities.
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ON MY PROPERTY?
Projects are developed in partnership with landowners to incorporate both the unique characteristics of the land and their goals for their properties. In general, our projects focus on preserving, enhancing, or restoring the existing natural resources on the property, including endangered mature forested areas, riparian corridors, streams, and wetlands. For our endangered species habitat conservation projects, we aim to eliminate invasive species and support the development of wildlife nesting and foraging sites. With that being said, we appreciate that our landowner-partners generally want to retain their right to private enjoyment of their land, so we aim to do our work in as few visits and with as little disruption as possible.
HOW AM I COMPENSATED?
We pride ourselves on our ability to fairly compensate our landowners for enrolling their land in our programs. We determine our compensation offers based on a variety of factors, including natural resource and habitat quality, current and future development potential, alternative use value (i.e. agricultural or timber), property size, and more. Landowners typically receive payment as a single lump-sum. In some instances, we spread out payments over several years, if advantageous for tax purposes. On that note, our payments to landowners are taxed as capital gains, not as income. For landowners interested in using the revenue received from us to purchase more land, we recommend discussing the benefits of a 1031 exchange with your tax professional, as it may provide significant tax savings.
HOW FLEXIBLE IS THE CONSERVATION AREA?
Very flexible. There is no stipulation that landowners move forward with the full proposed conservation area. We work collaboratively with landowners to design conservation and restoration projects that fit within their plans for the land. Often, this means excluding areas of the property with higher development potential in order to retain future options and property value. Please note that landowners are compensated on a per-acre basis for land that is included in the conservation area.
WHAT ARE MY RESPONSIBILITIES?
The one key responsibility is to avoid intentionally destroying, clear-cutting, or otherwise damaging the preserved acreage. Additionally, landowners are asked to do their best to keep unwanted trespassers off the property and to notify Magnolia of any drastic changes within the conservation area. Otherwise, assuming the property undergoes no damage or change, landowners are left to enjoy their property as they wish. Magnolia pays for any ecological improvements and once-yearly monitoring of the conserved area.
WHAT RESTRICTIONS ACCOMPANY THE PROJECT?
The integrity of our projects requires that large-scale development of the conservation area be permanently prohibited by the terms of a conservation easement. In most cases, timber and agricultural activities are either limited or prohibited. For some projects, timber stand improvement practices may be implemented in conjunction with a state-approved forest management plan. Our landowner-partners are never required to provide public access to their land and retain the right to enjoy their land recreationally.
WHAT CAN I CONTINUE TO DO ON MY PROPERTY?
We appreciate that landowners want to continue to utilize their land after it is conserved. Our projects are designed so that landowners can continue to enjoy their property for low-impact recreational activities such as hiking, camping, and hunting. Vehicles may be used on existing trails in conjunction with all permitted recreational activities. On that note, existing trails and roads may be maintained (though not paved), and new walking trails may be cleared, provided that no large trees are removed during the clearing. Notably, our easements typically only include restrictions on the surface of the conservation area, meaning exploration for minerals, oil, gas, etc. is permitted as long as any exploration or extraction processes used do not have an adverse effect on the surface of the conservation area.
WHAT DOES THE PROCESS LOOK LIKE? WHAT IS THE TIMELINE?
We aim to schedule a preliminary meeting and/or site visit within a month or two of our initial conversations. These meetings allow us to get a better sense of the unique features of the property and to discuss more details of the project. Soon after a site visit, we work with the landowner will finalize the conservation area and sign a formal conservation agreement which outlines our monetary offer and our intent to execute an easement over the conservation area. This agreement will allow us to pursue the project approval process, which typically takes 6-10 months. Following successful project approval, we execute the conservation easement on the property and pay the landowner. In the case that a landowner chooses to receive payment over several years, subsequent payments are made on the anniversary of the first payment. Habitat enhancement work is often performed within the first year, after which the only involvement is annual monitoring by Magnolia or its non-profit partners.
WHAT OTHER AGENCIES OR ORGANIZATIONS DOES MAGNOLIA WORK WITH?
Magnolia works with a number of state, federal, and local non-profit organizations who approve and help ensure the long-term stability of our projects. Notably, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service often acts as the referee for our species mitigation projects, while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers serves in a similar role for our stream and wetland restoration efforts. While we develop projects on a national scale, we make an effort to build relationships with and solicit “boots-on-the-ground” support from area- and resource-specific environmental organizations — such as land trusts and watershed associations — in order to establish a local partner for each of our projects.
ARE THERE ADDITIONAL BENEFITS?
Depending on the scope and scale of the project, additional benefits may apply. For instance, landowners can often have their property taxes reduced once an easement is executed on their land by having their property reassessed. Additionally, for each of its projects, Magnolia sets aside a considerable sum of money in an endowment fund. This money grows over time and exists as an insurance policy against damages from natural disasters, such as a lightning strike or forest fire. In the case that a portion or all of the conservation area is damaged during such an event, we can leverage these funds to restore the land back to its original conserved state.