Protect Your Land for Future Generations

A conservation easement can protect your land from development, leaving it just as you love it for future generations to enjoy.

| July 3, 2008

  • Land
    Don't let your land lose ground. Save valuable space for family and community with a conservation easement.

  • Land

You’ll never forget the special places where you connected with nature as a child. Maybe it was that creek bank, or that hillside or that grove of trees. For me, it was a field filled with wildflowers and adventure north of my grandma’s strawberry patch that now only exists as a memory. Developers turned it into a middle school. But the good news is that if you or someone in your family owns such a special place, a conservation easement is a legal way to protect and preserve it so future generations can enjoy it just as you have.

Ease what?

A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency. For conservation purposes, an easement permanently prohibits future development of a property by limiting the use of the land.

Take, for example, Fred and Vera Shield who wanted to preserve their 6,700-acre ranch for their daughter and son-in-law. They established conservation easements that protect an aquifer recharge area and restrict residential or commercial development on their property. For more stories of easements in action, visit this Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas resource.

Urban areas are expanding at about twice the rate of population growth. Easements don’t prevent urban areas from expanding —  they only govern where they expand. According to a 2005 census, local, regional and national land trusts conserve 37 million acres throughout the United States, a 54 percent increase from 2000. Because protecting land is a long-term, high-effort commitment, the best approach to achieving your family’s or community’s conservation goals is to work with an existing land trust. Land trusts are non-governmental, nonprofit organizations that work to protect land for conservation purposes. An agreement reached between a land trust and a property owner is perpetual, binding the current owner and even future owners to case-by-case restrictions. Once the propery owner and the trust sign, the owner has permanently relinquished his or her rights. Under a land trust’s supervision, conservation easements protect a wide range of land values from development that would negatively affect those values.

More than 1,700 land trusts have been established, serving every state. American Farmland Trust and The Nature Conservancy are two national examples.

How does land qualify?

Land trusts establish protection criteria and every land trust has specific conservation goals and establishes protection criteria. Ecological value is one factor that makes a property eligible for a conservation easement, but it’s not the only one. Other factors include water quality, endangered species habitats, forest buffer zones, open spaces, scenic views and agricultural production. The goal is to restrict land development, even for land that is not accessible by the public.

Al Barrs
7/19/2008 7:36:50 AM

I am retired but have owned a farm in northwest Florida for over 20 years. I refuse to plant pine trees on my farm while others are planting all around me. I could get more money for planting pines than I get from renting my land to farmers, but I believe good cropland is going to be a premium and badly needed in the future. I also hope my children will continue to use the land for food corps instead of toilet paper...

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