Several of us have been talking about what we see as the need in the permaculture community for some sort of permacultureland conservancy that would enable permaculture sites to be protected from future development.
We are all busy developing sites that are planned for the long term, are based on perennials, and are oriented towards developing a long term, regenerative culture (aka permanent culture). We are also, for the most part designing our sites with trees as major design elements, many of whom will not come into maturity until long after the site has passed from our hands.
In addition, we have a generation of permaculture elders, many of whom are, in fact, elders, who have established/developed sites that may be at risk for development when they pass on.
So what we were thinking is that we need a way for our sites to be protected from development, and continued to be managed as permaculture sites, down the years --something like the way land trusts/conservancies do.
What conservancy-type land trusts usually do is to have a mechanism for receiving development rights to a piece of property. They then take responsibility for making sure that no development occurs on that property over time and as it changes owners. We think that it would be pretty easy to do the same type of thing for permaculture sites.
What do other people think? Do you think there is a need for this? If so, would you be interested in helping to make it happen? Is there already something like that out there?
I apologise if there is already a thread about this, and I would love to be directed to it if there is.
It seems that using standard conservancy covenants should accomplish this goal for nature preserve sections. (But if anyone has experience to the contrary it would be good to examine the details of any problems with that approach.)
To take that a step further, I have been thinking specific permaculture Zone covenants might be useful. For example, as mentioned above, if you want your Zone 5 to remain as such in perpetuity, could you have conservancy lawyer draw up a land preservation document called "Zone 5 covenant?" That seems like it would be a straight-forward, standard nature preservation covenant.
But I wonder about a more mixed-use Zone 4 or 3 covenant, where you would use the language of the covenant to spell out how much land remains in trees, under canopy or whatever goal is. I don't know the answer to that today, but it seems that using well-recognized permaculture land stewardship concepts could make conservancy covenants more robust.
The laws on drawing up land conservation covenants vary by jurisdiction, and landowners many only have so much leeway in some cases to tailor a covenant to their achieve their goals. But what are your thoughts on this approach?
Thanks everybody for contributing to this conversation. I'm so glad other people are interested!
Our idea to date on the covenants is that each site being protected would have a permaculture design registered with the permaculture conservancy (which we've tentatively named The Permaculture Conservation Trust). The design would have all the usual zones, sectors, species inventory, and everything else a good design has. Proposed changes to the design would be submitted to the Trust, and if accepted, would be registered with the original design. There would also be a management plan.
Part of the job of the conservancy would be to go around and check to make sure that what’s going on in the site corresponds to what’s in the design and management plans, so that when the property changes hands after the original site designer leaves it, the site and its design continue to be protected.
I would like to get everybody who is interested in a permaculture conservancy working together to make it happen ASAP. Maybe we could pull together an email list of folks who would like to do this.
Our group that has been working on this has a Board of Directors, an almost-final draft of bylaws, and a draft of a conflict of interest policy. We are almost ready to incorporate, and then the next step will be to apply for federal nonprofit status. We can be a national organization, but we have to register in each state that we are operating in. So anyone who wants to join us in making this happen can, regardless of where in the US they are. (Our bylaws allow us to meet electronically).
We could use more people for the Board of Directors; also we could use a webmaster/social media person or persons, and someone to handle crowdfunding.
I am very interested to hear how the those of you who have been working on this have been thinking about it and where you have gotten with it so far. I would love to be able to join forces and make a really good organization that meets the needs of the permaculture community.
Also I am highly interested and began to work out something similar for Germany.
There is one point that where I'm somewhat sceptic: Big organization attract parasites (some of them are politicians).
I would prefer to distribute the power. Maybe with the following model:
One institution would take the responsibility to work out the juridical template for smaller trusts and create a "big trust". (compare to Mollisons' "good trust".)
Then each community would create a small trust that they manage themselves. They take the template that the big trust provides and follows the steps in the manual (to be written).
The land that this community lives and operates on, belongs to their trust.
Their trust document contains the rules of permaculture and their own additions. Possibly also a statement that if they fail to follow their own rules, the land goes to the big trust and they can tell them what to do.
If this does not work, it is redistributed to others.
This would allow the communities to make changes to the design that are in agreement with their trust document. So we avoid the "big brother" here. It probably also makes things easier.
The "big trust" would only have to work when something goes wrong. It would also collect money and land that is then given to local communities.
Greetings Deb & folks, is your permaculture land trust nonprofit up & running? I'd love to be in touch to learn from your model as we figure out how to protect our permaculture teaching & learning farm in the future. Many thanks, Lisa of woodland harvest mtn farm
I have been listening to Bill Mollisons tapes from a 1983 class, and he spends about 1/3 of his time talking about just this concept, although he goes a few steps further.
I like his ideas about setting up a non profit and a for profit company simultaneously, the for profit donating all it's earnings to the non profit each year to avoid taxes, the non profit set up to educate and sponsor Permaculture projects.
I have had these tapes for about a year, listening to them almost daily, and he covers the normal stuff--zones, sectors, trees, water, etc., and for a long time I would simply avoid all the complicated stuff about associations, and incorporations because it rattled my brain. it was easier to simply plan a dam and swale and all the plantings and such than to even start an association (or even understand why I would start one.)
But the end result in his legal planning becomes an untaxed, ever growing entity, protected in law and more or less immortal.
The catch here is that all this rhetoric and information is based on Australian Law from 40 years ago. As I gather my wits (after having my brain rattled ) more and more I'm starting to investigate just how applicable his meticulous plans and legal structures might be. (finding this thread was the result of a google search looking for existing documents on these principles.
He talks about "arming ourselves with the armor of the invincible" , and how all the big boys use these strategies to get over on the legal system, while all us uneducated(legally) peons plod along and subsidize their enterprises with our tax dollars.
He also was the one who had to coerce Geoff Lawton to set up his own institute, and of course Geoff has done nothing but grow and branch out.
Basically here most of what I'm doing is bumping an old thread, looking for others who may know more, and especially for others who may have already mastered these strategies and might want to share their trust documents. It costs a bit initially to get these set up, legal wording in contracts can be a bit pricey from a competent /sympathetic lawyer, but once the wording is in place copying it is cheap--Bill used to sell his trust documents for 10$, and they may still be available, but would likely need to be translated to the laws of the United States. If anyone has seen these documents, I'd love to hear about them.
I think a Permaculturally-aligned Land Conservancy program is a great idea.
I was recently informed of a government land management program here in Ontario, which may or may not still be accepting applicants, that offered land taxation breaks or other incentives for what they call aforestation, which to me sounds like amorality or atheism, the absence of a thing, but apparently is the term they use for returning land that used to be forest in the past but has spent some time being not forest back to productive forest once again. The catch that threw most potential applicants was the stipulation that the land not be logged for 100 years.
I must admit that it gave me pause as well. I mean, no selective cutting, even? I love the sentiment, but for it to be practical, that 100 year thing would have to be a strong guideline with a set of exemptions, and a solid metric for identifying new ones.
A permaculture conservancy might also go a similar route, though, in terms of not simply reserving and preserving, but reclaiming, remediating, and returning spent, abused, or marginal lands to some sort of ecological support function, even if just pollinator habitat and erosion control. It is the sort of organisation that would benefit many urban and periurban organisations concerned with the fate of wild pollinators and honeybee habitat, for instance, or land stewardship groups whose foci are hunters and game fishers, outdoors enthusiasts, bird-watchers, or skijorers. This isn't an exhaustive list by any means.
It could also be a vehicle for guiding and informing land-use under the Conservancy, opening some opportunities for groups and individuals who could benefit from permaculturally-aligned eco-tourism and profit-generating land-use models to choose innovative new models and patterns for their land, increasing their operational budgets to allow for more return to themselves and the land, and to the Conservancy, who might offer ongoing assistance by connecting people looking for Permaculture getaways and jobs with those operations that need them, like a boosted, vetted woofer program and a travel brochure all in one.
So people get the Conservancy model to work with, permaculture help, business model help for those that need it, and that landowner and landuser connectivity, and the Conservancy gets some kickback from sites using their services, and the permaculture prion gets spread to more brains.
This is a good idea, and has many different possible iterations. I hope we can see more developments in this sphere.
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thanks for the reference Tyler, I've thought about that different times, since the trust documents used to be sold regularly,
there would be a great deal to change without doubt, but parts of it might be useful. Corporation law varies widely from state to state in the US, so one size doesn't fit all, but it might save some time if i hire a lawyer to figure it out.
This is second hand knowledge so take it as you will.
With that said my little brothers father has a farm in N.J. about 200 acres that was put into conservancy by my brothers grandfather.
Now it can be nothing except a farm or let go native.
My brother has no desire to be a farmer of any kind and doesn't want the home or property for several reasons. One is the home is in disrepair and would take large sums of money to make right and the taxes on the property are very high of it isn't producing an income.
What I am basically saying is be cautious with the conservancy route as is is very restrictive on what can be done with the property.
Curt, You make a good point about a possible pitfall of a conservancy as it might be normally set up. A good conservancy will/ trust would name a secondary trust/ foundation that would inherit the land and preserve it if your brother was unwilling/ unable to take responsibility for it.
I'd like to set up a trust that was more in the public domain even before I die, so there are more people with similar ideals participating and willing to enjoy and nurture the land I saved back from the cycle of clear cutting every 10-20 years. My own son is off making his own life, and I'd like to make a provision that he would always be welcome to participate should he ever choose to do so. Primarily though my land is a vehicle for changing ideas and life patterns to more productive and less damaging ones, not just a nest egg my son inherits and squanders.
Yes a lot has changed but Trusts are a popular way of managing estates.
You would need to seek out a local expert I believe and we don't actually have the material that you would be referring to I'm sorry.
PA to Geoff and Nadia Lawton
Personnel Manager Zaytuna Farm
Permaculture Research Institute
I'm guessing those documents would have been property of Tagari publications, which was Bill's creation, but the general idea of seeking local counsel is likely a watch word here. and the original trust documents from long ago could only be a starting point for a consultation, not a fill in the blank finished legal document.
A lawyer owns the property next door, and I may end up buying it from him, but for now I plan to float some of these ideas past him and see what he thinks. No reason he couldn't give some of his acres as a tax write off to a non profit next door, and then be allowed continuing access if he ever wanted to come back. The real hope is that he can refer me to a good trust lawyer who can set the whole thing up.
Many of us are or have probably been members of the Nature Conservancy.
They are very effective at land preservation and trust and have this down to a science. they welcome all levels of community, government and industry coming to them to settle ecological and land use differences. they set up diverse land trust, many different types, most all with local leadership in the are of compliance. I bet they would extend their trust services to those moving this direction. In the past they did not have to be a beneficiary of the property being entrusted. they also know about managing a trust and the difficulties that arise from poor writing and planning. We could learn much from them, not work as hard as we might, not make a lot of mistakes and get a good start as a result.
Well you get the idea. Would they mentor this direction by this new Perma-culture Trust, as we are a sister organization? Board members could reach out and see.
Thanks for the tip, I had no idea the Nature Conservancy offered others that sort of help, My own efforts were put on a back burner with so much else going on, but I'll make an initial contact and see about getting the ball rolling.
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