Conservation Easements

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).

DSC_0307Conservation 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.

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Eli 's work addresses Minnesota forest ecology & management. He's based in St Paul.

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  1. I have a question regarding a permanent conservation easement taken by the state of MN.Are there any setbacks to building a hog confinement building next to the easement?

    Thanks for taking the time to answer my question.


    1. Hi Greg. Good question, but one that we can’t give you a definite answer to. The rights granted under the easement, and those retained by the landowner, depend on the specific terms of the easement agreement. I suggest that you read the terms carefully and, if necessary, consult an attorney for a clearer answer. Good luck!

  2. What are the financial benefits of a conservation easement? Also, does the landowner have to allow the land to be public or anything? I am looking at doing one of these, but I have no idea how to go about it. NW MN probably isn’t a high priority area.

    I want to ensure the lands we own now remain woodlands for years to come and not fall victim to the plow like most land in our area.