You don’t realize how important it is to have one name for a property until you need to get your data in order. Suddenly you realize that you’ve been referring to the ‘Smith Easement’ also as ‘Smith Forest’, ‘Rocky Forest’, and ‘Smith Easement (Jones)’, and accumulating all of the vital records can go from a simple search to a lengthy undertaking. So what’s the solution?
The Conservation Restriction program at the Trustees of Reservations manages over 300 easements, and they have a great solution that I used during my time there: give the property a number. You can still call it ‘Rocky Forest’, but tagging a number onto it will eliminate all future confusion about what property you’re referring to.
While many organizations use project numbers, it’s by no means a universal practice. We recommend using numbers because it helps keep everything organized, especially when you integrate that number with file naming. For example:
You give the Smith Easement the number of 123.00. You want to save an important email on August 19th from the owners regarding a request they have to build a structure. You save that email as “123.00.2020-08-19.BuildingRequestEmail.pdf”. In the future, if someone wants to bring up all the documents associated with that easement in their file management system, all they have to do is search for “123.00”.
So why the ‘.00’? Subdivisions happen! Every subdivision of the original easement can be incremented by .01, so the first subdivision of the easement will be .01, the second will be .02, etc…
Finally, you may want to further designate easement vs. fee vs. trail easement with some leading letters, so “CE123.01” or “CE004.00” rather than “123.01” or “004.00”, or “F12.00” for Fee properties. This can also makes it easier to work with the numbering system in Microsoft Excel, since it has a habit of dropping zeros if it’s not clearly designated as text.
If you’re adding numbers to properties retroactively, it can help to number them in chronological order, but don’t get too hung up on this — it will just help give future stewards an idea of when the property was protected.
How can Landscape Help?
Not only can Landscape track project or property numbers (in Landscape this is called the “External ID number”), but you can also enter as many aliases for a property as you need to. These aliases appear in parentheses next to the main property name when searching for Landscape records. Look for the ‘Alias’ field in a property record, and enter as many names and numbers as you’d like, separated by semicolons. If you rely heavily on being able to search by the property number, you can integrate it into the name itself (so it will appear as “Rocky River [CE123.00] (Smith Easement)”), or list it as an alias (“Rocky River (CE123.00; Smith Easement)). Both methods will allow you to search by number.