A conservation easement is a legally enforceable land preservation agreement between a landowner and a qualified land protection organization (often called a “land trust”) that restricts real estate development, commercial and industrial uses, and certain other activities on a property to a mutually agreed upon level (Wikipedia).
Conservation easements typically involve the transfer of development rights from the landowner to either a land trust or a unit of government. The landowner reserves all rights not transferred, including the right to hunt, harvest timber, or use the land for recreation.
Every conservation easement is different. The terms of each easement are negotiated between the landowner and the entity holding the easement.
Conservation easements can be financially beneficial. When development rights are donated, the landowner can claim the donation against her/his taxes. However, this is not always the case.
For most families the primary reason to pursue a conservation easement is to leave a family legacy on the land. A permanent easement ensures that the family land will remain intact and undeveloped for years to come.
Although conservation easements are attractive to many landowners, some are disappointed to find themselves unable to find an organization to accept the easement. Land trusts have limited resources, and tend to focus their resources on the highest priority parcels. High priority parcels tend to be large and somehow unique, either ecologically, historically, or both.
Other useful links:
- Land Protection Options: A handbook for MN landowners (PDF: MN DNR publication)
- Many other land protection resources from the Minnesota DNR.
- The Minnesota Land Trust