Conservation burial is the most environmentally stringent of the Green Burial Council’s burial ground standards. In addition to meeting all standards required of hybrid and natural burial grounds, conservation burial requires the following requirements:
These standards ensure that conservation burial not only protects the land, but also takes into consideration the larger landscape and the future (in perpetuity) of the burial ground. It’s an impressive commitment to conservation, but as you can imagine, that’s a lot for a cemetery operator to take on in addition to the daily operations of a cemetery.
Fortunately, there are already people doing this kind of work. Land trusts are nonprofit organizations that protect land through conservation easements, or deed restrictions that remove certain rights from the property while keeping it in the owner’s hands. For example, a conservation easement might prevent the construction of buildings and ensure that the natural character of the land is protected through annual monitoring and stewardship by the land trust.
So what are the benefits for both parties?
By partnering with a land trust, conservation burial grounds not only meet the requirements of certification from the GBC, but they have access to expertise and knowledge of land management and ecology. For land trusts, conservation burials are a novel approach to conservation that has the potential to be financially self-sustaining and beneficial to natural and human communities. Although conservation burial poses a unique set of challenges outside the normal land trust responsibilities, some land trusts view it as an opportunity to connect with people and be at the forefront of an increasingly popular consumer choice for after death care.
Here’s where it gets exciting.
For the first time ever, land trusts are creating their own conservation burial grounds! Recently, two land trusts (Casper Creek Natural Cemetery and Baldwin Hill Conservation Cemetery) have created their own conservation burial grounds. In a time of climate crisis, novel conservation tools such as conservation burial are essential to re-thinking our way of life, and death. While other forms of green burial are considered environmental through avoided costs, such as preventing the use of nonbiodegradable materials, conservation burial goes the extra step and takes on additional responsibilities of actively caring for the surrounding environment as well.
About the Author
Kate Berdan is a member of the Green Burial Council's 501(C)(6) Board of Directors. She lives in the Adirondack Mountains in New York where she manages nature preserves for The Nature Conservancy. Kate studied the potential of conservation burial grounds as conservation tools for land trusts during her dual Master's degree program at the University of Vermont and Vermont Law School.
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