A New Approach to Monitoring Conservation Easements from a Fixed Wing Aircraft

A New Approach to Monitoring Conservation Easements from a Fixed Wing Aircraft (BEG)
Charles Dawley, Little Traverse Conservancy
Additional Contributors: Derek Shiels, Kieran Fleming, Little Traverse Conservancy

The success of conservation easements in protecting natural and working lands depends on the ability to monitor and enforce these easements. Organizations holding large and growing easement acreage need new methods to handle monitoring responsibilities. It may not be feasible to monitor every property from the ground due to time constraints or the remote nature of some properties and the cost to monitoring from a plane can be prohibitive. In an effort to increase aerial monitoring efficiency and efficacy, Little Traverse Conservancy staff has established a protocol for aerial monitoring that increases the number of properties covered during a flight while cutting down flying time, improving our ability to detect easement violations and providing us with a permanent archive of the annual condition of each property. The system utilizes a GoPro Hero camera mounted to a plane, and software for georeferencing the boundaries and creating a map with high resolution detail. Our protocols have cut down on resource and personnel costs to adequately monitor 275 conservation easements (and growing) spread out over our five county service region.

Charles Dawley, Little Traverse Conservancy
Charles, a native of Petoskey, joined the Little Traverse Conservancy as an intern in the spring of 2003. Charles has a multitude of talents ranging from building boardwalks to producing maps and documentation for land and stewardship projects and conservancy publications. His formal education is a bachelor's degree in geographic information systems and environmental land use and planning from Central Michigan University.