In use for over 100 years, conservation easements—sometimes called private land protection agreements—
are legal agreements private landowners can use to protect their open, natural lands in perpetuity. Legally
binding, conservation easements permanently retire certain development rights of a property, as agreed upon
by the property owner and a land trust. Each conservation easement is unique in that it restricts and protects
specific values that the owner wishes to conserve on their particular piece of property. These conservation
values may be agricultural, scenic, historic, ecological, or recreational. The land trust holds the easement in
perpetuity, taking on the responsibility of ensuring that the terms of the easement are met, regardless of who
owns the property in future.
Conservation easements are tied with the property, not the landowner. A landowner who places a conservation easement
on their property still retains ownership and may sell, mortgage, or bequeath their land as usual. However, because it retires
certain development rights, a conservation easement often significantly reduces a land’s potential monetary value. This figure,
as determined by a special appraisal, is considered a charitable gift by both the federal and state government, qualifying the landowner
for a federal tax deduction, and—since 2008—a transferable (saleable) state tax credit.
Return to Land Page