Do you know what a conservation easement is?
When land is purchased, the landowner is entitled to a number of rights pertaining to the land including the right to develop and the use of the natural resources found on the land. Conservation Easements are a form of compensation allowing landowners to sell these rights pertaining to their land, such as use of minerals and water, while still retaining ownership of the land. The more rights that are sold, the more compensation is received by the landowner. The selling of these rights is a form of selling a "less-than-fee" interest and can be incredibly useful to landowners trying to increase profitability of undeveloped land.
Put simply, a conservation easement is a restriction on the use of property, similar to a deed restriction. This restriction is recorded in public records continues in perpetuity in most cases. The government agency receives assurance that this valuable land will be protected from future development.
Compensation can come in many forms, sometimes as direct payments or as tax benefits. Not only are conservation easements beneficial for the environment, but they are a way for landowners to make their land profitable without having to force the land into development.
These easements provide a way for landowners to pass undeveloped land on to their heirs without having to develop it. This is a boon to many landowners hoping to retain long-held family property.
These easements also help to protect millions of acres of habitats by keeping land in private hands, while offering public benefits.
Land that qualifies for conservation easements tends to have the following characteristics:
- Home to endangered species of plants and animals
- In an area of Critical State Concern
- Is adjacent to government property
- Contains water sources or is part of a larger water system
While many of the easements share these qualities, the conservation easement is ultimately valued through an appraisal by a qualified appraiser.
For a more in-depth guide to conservation easements, read this primer written and compiled by Dean Saunders founder of SVN Saunders Ralston Dantzler. From 1992 to 1996 he served in the Florida House of Representatives, where his strong passion for supporting landowner property rights and conserving the integrity of a property’s natural resources culminated in his authorship of groundbreaking conservation legislation.
For more information on conservation easements, land, and land and resource management, please read our other articles on land conservation.
Do You Have a Question for The Land Journal?