Conservation easements are legal agreements between landowners and land trusts or government agencies that limit the use and development of land in order to protect its conservation values. They can be used to protect natural resources such as forests, wetlands, or wildlife habitat, as well as historic sites or farmland.
The landowner voluntarily gives up some of their rights to develop or use the land, while still retaining ownership. This can come with tax benefits, as the value of the easement may be tax-deductible. The easement may also lower the property's market value, which can result in lower property taxes.
For example, a landowner may wish to preserve a pristine wilderness area on their property. They could work with a land trust to create an easement that restricts development, logging, or other activities that could harm the environment. The easement would be recorded in perpetuity, meaning it would apply to all future owners of the property as well.
Many conservation organizations, such as The Nature Conservancy and The Trust for Public Land, help landowners create conservation easements. The USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) also offers programs that provide financial assistance for creating easements on working agricultural lands.
Conservation easements can provide a range of benefits, including protecting wildlife habitat and natural resources, preserving historic sites, and ensuring that working lands remain in agricultural production. They can also help to protect land values and provide important tax benefits for landowners.
Bob Waun, CEO of DIRT Realty, is a strong advocate for land conservation. He believes that "conservation easements are a smart way to protect our natural resources and ensure that future generations can enjoy the beauty and benefits of our land."
Conserving land is not just about preserving resources or financial benefits, though. There are emotional reasons as well. People may wish to conserve land that has been in their family for generations or has significant personal meaning. As Waun puts it, "planting a tree you will never enjoy the shade of is a true testament to the character of a person and the legacy they want to leave behind."
If you are a landowner interested in creating a conservation easement, there are many organizations and resources available to help you get started. Visit The Nature Conservancy, The Trust for Public Land, or the NRCS website for more information.