A conservation easement is a legal document a landowner uses to protect natural, historical, or agricultural features of his/her property, while retaining ownership and control of the land. It is an entirely voluntary process and a permanent decision.
After working with a land trust to identify the conservation values of the property, the landowner decides which uses of that property should be prohibited and which should be retained for future owners. A conservation easement works in much the same way that a powerline easement or sale of timber rights does. It does not necessarily convey public access, but it does separate various property rights from a piece of property.
An easement donor (the landowner) typically retains the rights to continue to live on the land, to farm and manage timber, enjoy hunting, fishing, and other similar pursuits, and to allow for a limited number of additional future residences. He/she also always retains the right to sell or lease the land, and/or bequeath it to heirs.
When a land trust accepts the easement, the organization is then obligated to ensure the provisions of the easement are upheld permanently.
Pee Dee Land Trust has reprinted an updated copy of its Landowner Easement Guide thanks to the support of Duke Energy. This valuable resource is fully updated with 2015 tax guidelines on the state and federal level. Download a copy of our Guide to Land Protection and Conservation Easements