The most traditional tool for conserving private land, a “conservation easement” is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that 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.
When you sell or donate an agricultural 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 or gravel mining rights, 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. El Rio Reyes Conservation Trust will monitor easement properties once a year to ensure easement compliance. Annual monitoring is a great time for land trust directors or staff to visit with the landowner and foster relationships.
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.
All agricultural conservation easements with El Rio Reyes the property remains privately owned and managed. Therefore, the property remains on the county tax rolls contributing to the local economy.
For more information about conservation easements visit the Land Trust Alliance’s website, www.landtrustalliance.org . The Land Trust Alliance is the national convener, strategist and representative of more than 1,700 land trusts across America.