“CONSERVATION IS A STATE OF HARMONY BETWEEN MEN AND THE LAND.” ~Aldo Leopold
A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a qualified organization, such as a land trust, that limits certain uses of the land – like large scale subdivision – in order to conserve the natural and traditional values of the land. Landowners grant conservation easements to protect the resources of their property while retaining the rights of private ownership. Granting a conservation easement does not mean that the landowner must grant public access to his or her property. The terms of the conservation easement represent a mutual agreement between the landowner and the Land Trust. We work only with willing landowners and do not ask the landowner to enter into an agreement that he or she is not satisfied with.
Landowners protect their land for many reasons. Common reasons include: helping pass the family land to future generations and family members, gaining peace of mind that the land’s special features will be protected forever, financial benefits for you and your heirs– potential reduction in taxes (income, estate and property). Your tax attorney and accountant can tell you more about specific tax benefits.
The landowner’s current uses and future plans for the property are important considerations when embarking on a conservation easement agreement. Once identified these needs can then be discussed and incorporated into the terms of the conservation easement.
Easement terms are delineated by the intersection of the property’s conservation values, the landowner’s needs and BYLT’s objectives and obligations.
BYLT recognizes that the viability of conservation relies heavily upon the landowner’s ability to secure reasonable and sustainable use of their real-estate investments. This use may include the continued working of the land, the right to develop home sites as well as the right to enjoy the recreational and aesthetic opportunities that open space affords.
Prospective grantees must recognize that the deeding of a conservation easement means relinquishing some rights in order to establish perpetual conservation security. Limits on future subdivision, development, and use of the property are therefore negotiated and drafted into the easement document. These use restrictions will be held in perpetuity.
Easement Holder Rights
When BYLT accepts the responsibility of a conservation easement, land stewards must have the ability to assess and protect the conservation values in which BYLT has been entrusted. Certain rights of entrance, observation, enforcement and compensation are therefore reserved to BYLT staff in order to fulfill obligations of the conservation agreement.
With each conservation easement, BYLT and the landowner take on the responsibility and obligation to protect the conservation values of the property. Protection is ensured by ongoing stewardship of the land.
Communication, stewardship education and support are essential components of a successful conservation easement program. On working lands (agricultural and timber lands) it may mean input on the development of a management plan. BYLT may be able to provide and/or identify expertise and other resources for such efforts.
At a minimum, BYLT annually contacts the landowner and/or property agent and monitors each property to ensure compliance with the terms of the conservation easement. All of this is documented, compiled as part of the record for each easement and provided to land owners.
Significant staff time and resources are required to fulfill the legal obligations of an easement. For this reason, BYLT establishes endowments to cover the costs associated with our monitoring and reporting responsibilities. The establishment of a stewardship endowment is an essential component in the conservation easement development process thereby ensuring that resources necessary to protect the conservation values persist just as the Land Trust’s responsibilities persist. Because BYLT is a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization, these endowments are tax deductible.