The most traditional tool for conserving private land is a legal agreement, known as a "conservation easement" or "conservation restriction", between a landowner and a land trust or government agency which permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. It allows landowners to continue to own and use their land, and they can also sell it or pass it on to heirs. Conservation easements offer great flexibility. An easement on property containing rare wildlife habitat might prohibit any development, for example, while an easement on a farm might allow continued farming and the addition of agricultural structures. An easement may apply to all or a portion of the property, and need not require public access.
When you donate a conservation easement to a land trust, you give up some of the rights associated with the land. For example, you might give up the right to build additional structures, while retaining the right to grow crops. Future owners also will be bound by the easement's terms. The land trust is responsible for making sure the easement's terms are followed. This is managed through "stewardship" by the land trust.
Our experienced attorneys can assist you with negotiating and implementing conservation easements as well as navigating the complicated tax issues affiliated with conservation easement transfers.