Learn More About Land Conservation

Interview with the Director of Standards and Research at the Land Trust Alliance.

| July 3, 2008

  • Lake Michigan
    The Old Baldy dunes on the Lake Michigan shore are protected by the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy.   

  • Lake Michigan

Sylvia Bates has more than 20 years of experience in the field of land conservation. Read this interview to learn all about conservation easements from a professional. For more, see Protect Your Land for Future Generations.

How would you explain a conservation easement to someone without prior knowledge of them?

A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a conservation organization or public agency. Its primary purpose is to protect the land from inappropriate development, and this agreement restricts the amount and type of development that can occur on a piece of land. It protects a property’s value as agricultural land, a scenic view, an open space, a river corridor, a park, etc. These conservation values are permanently protected from any development that will have a negative impact on them. The agreement is perpetual, meaning it lasts forever and runs with the land. It binds all future owners of the land as well as the existing landowner. So the current landowner is bound by the terms of the easement, ensuring that the property never becomes developed, and any future owners of the property also are bound by those same restrictions.

What’s the relationship between a landowner, easement and land trust?

Interactions between a landowner and a land trust can happen in many different ways, often depending on how that relationship first came about. Some landowners are very generous and are able to make donations of conservation easements. Sometimes they will actually approach a land trust for this purpose because they think this is an important thing to do. They have a conservation commitment, a conservation ethic, and really want to see their land permanently protected from any future development. So they may already have established an earlier relationship with the land trust — perhaps they’re a land trust member already, or maybe they’re just a member of the community that’s already heard about the good work that the land trust does, or somehow are introduced to the organization in some other way. In other situations, a land trust may initiate contact with a landowner for those properties that the land trust has previously identified as being very important in its community or region to protect. So the land trust may approach the landowner to discuss options for protecting their land.

Which scenario is more common?

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