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What IS a Conservation Easement, Anyway?

Conservation easements can permanently protect privately-owned properties like this one. Photo by Paolo Vescia.
Conservation easements can permanently protect privately-owned properties like this one. Photo by Paolo Vescia.

Conservation easements are an incredibly important tool we use to help protect land. They can be confusing to understand, so my next few blogs will focus on different aspects of conservation easements to explain the concept and show why land conservation organizations like the League use conservation easements so often.

This week I will explain the basics, i.e. what is a conservation easement?

The Land Trust Alliance states that 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 you to continue to own and use your land and to sell it or pass it on to heirs.”

In other words, we work with a private landowner who is interested in making sure that their land will change very little over the years—forever, in fact. In return, the landowner can either receive payment for giving up the right to do certain things on their property (e.g. develop it, subdivide it, cut down trees, etc.), or the landowner can get a large tax write-off.

All of this means that the landowner can continue to own his/her land and sell it to whomever he/she wants with the confidence that the land will stay preserved forever.

Conservation easements are just one way we can protect critical lands like redwood forests, wildlife habitat and open space for future generations. They are truly a win-win for both landowners and the land, and are an important tool for conservation.

For more information about conservation easements, you can visit the Land Trust Alliance website.

Stay tuned! In the following weeks I’ll cover:

  1. How we monitor and enforce easements
  2. How we use easements
  3. An example of what we’ve saved with an easement
  4. Working Forest Conservation Easements and how they are different

Have questions about conservation easements? Leave a comment and I’ll do my best to get you answers!


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About Jessica Neff

Jessica joined the in 2011 as the Land Project and Stewardship Manager. She has worked in land conservation since 2005 in land project and stewardship management.



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