What is a Conservation Easement?
Conservation Easements are legal, recorded documents that provide a versatile way to protect key scenic and natural features of a property while the property remains in private ownership.
Through a Conservation Easement, the Land Bank and a property owner develop a set of agreements that say what can and cannot be done on the land. The Land Bank usually pays the owner to place these restrictions on the property. Because the property remains in private ownership, there is no public access unless the owner desires it.
For example, if the property is a cherished view of open farmland and visible from a county road, the easement could promote continued farming and limit how many houses can be built. This would protect the view forever. Depending on the property, easements may affect the removal of trees or restrict what can happen near a wetland.
The easement is recorded with the county auditor just like any other formal document that affects title to land. The property owner continues to own the land and pays the property taxes. The owner can sell the land, or give it away; but no matter who owns the land, the easement always remains in effect. The restrictions apply “in perpetuity”.
To be sure that terms of the easement are being honored, the Land Bank has an established stewardship program which includes careful monitoring and yearly visits to the property.
Conservation easements can be one of the most cost-effective ways to preserve land. They benefit both landowners and the community, while costing the Land Bank less than outright acquisitions. Whenever possible, the Land Bank tries to meet community priorities by purchasing conservation easements.
The following factors must be met for the Land Bank to pursue a project:
• The property must provide an important conservation resource.
• The property’s identified conservation resource(s) should be vulnerable
to adverse change.
• The proposed project must adequately protect the identified conservation resource(s) of the property.
• The acquisition should make effective use of the Land Bank’s limited funds and resources.
• There must be general public support.