A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a land trust and a landowner that constrains allowable land uses. The restrictions stay with the land when ownership changes. The types of properties protected include farms, forested properties and those that contain wetlands, streams or lakeshore.
As development pressures continue to increase, and as more landowners realize that they have the ability to permanently protect the lands they love, conservation easements allow landowners to achieve their conservation vision.
Conservation easements legally protect parcels that possess significant scenic and open space values from development and degradation. The landowner who grants an easement retains ownership of the property and is permitted to exercise all uses of the property that are not expressly prohibited by the easement or inconsistent with its purposes.
Prohibited uses of property can include:
- Subdivision, partitioning, and construction of structures
- Placement of signs or billboards that detract from scenic value
- Commercial or industrial use or activity on the property
- Alteration of the surface of the land or of bodies of water
- Processing, storage, dumping or other disposal of wastes or debris
A conservation easement may apply only to a portion of a property and does not require public access.
Because each property is different, as well as the needs of each property owner, no two conservation easements are alike. The easements are written to meet the needs and desires of the individual landowner while protecting the scenic and ecological integrity of the property. The specific activities the conservation easement prohibits are mutually determined by the landowner and CLCF.
The donation of a conservation easement to CLCF can qualify as a tax-deductible charitable gift. A conservation easement can also be donated by will.