What is a conservation easement?
A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and land trust or government agency that protects the conservation values of a piece of land by permanently limiting its present and future uses. This uniquely flexible conservation tool lets a landowner retain ownership and use of their property. An easement can be established to protect all or part of a property that has significant agricultural, historic, scenic or wildlife habitat resources. Millions of acres have been saved in this way. Land trusts are among several nonprofit land conservation organizations traditionally granted conservation easements by landowners with a love of the land and an interest in protecting it in perpetuity.
Who is allowed by law to hold a conservation easement?
A qualified nonprofit, tax-exempt conservation organization - such as a land trust or conservancy - may hold a conservation easement, as can federal, state or local government entities.
Who decides what restrictions govern a conservation easement?
The landowner and the land trust or other nonprofit, tax-exempt conservation organization decide together what's needed to protect the land's conservation value while, at the same time, meeting the financial and personal needs of the landowner and their family. This is a land-protection option known for its flexibility. For example, an easement on property with rare wildlife habitat may limit or further prohibit development of any kind while a farmland easement would allow continued farming and the building of limited agricultural structures. Land subject to a conservation easement remains privately owned and managed by the landowner, but enforcement of the easement restrictions becomes the permanent responsibility and legal right of the land trust.
Does a conservation easement grant public access to land?
No. However, public access to protected land can be a stipulation of a conservation easement agreement if mutually acceptable to the landowner and the land trust.
What effect does a conservation easement have on a landowner's ability to sell, develop or pass the land to his or her heirs?
While restrictions defined in a conservation easement document run with the property forever, land protected in this way can be sold, passed to heirs or otherwise transferred at any time. Land-use restrictions may affect only certain portions of a property, significant woodland or wetland areas, for example, but allow development on the remainder. Transfer of ownership does not affect the integrity or enforceability of the permanent easement. The landowner who establishes a conservation easement ensures that his or her careful stewardship of the land is a legacy that lasts.
What are the financial or tax benefits of donating a conservation easement?
Donation of a
conservation easement to a qualified conservation organization is treated
as a charitable deduction for tax purposes as long as it meets federal tax
How is the value of a conservation easement determined?
The value of the gift, for tax purposes, is the difference between the property's full market value before and after donation of the conservation easement as determined by a qualified land appraiser.
How is a conservation easement administered?
donation of a conservation easement is a tremendous responsibility for
a land trust. It means accepting the obligation of monitoring
and enforcing the easement terms in perpetuity. Once an easement is
established, the land trust documents the site's conservation values,
performs periodic site inspections to ensure all the easement's terms
and conditions are being honored and keep all future owners of the site
informed of the agreement. If a violation is found, the landowner is notified
according to documented procedures and steps taken to repair any damage.
Most easement documents contain language that defines the process for
resolving disputes between grantor and
Protection for the Land