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What Is a Conservation Easement?

A conversation easement (or conservation covenant/restriction) is a voluntary agreement that may either be sold or donated. It restricts the usage of one’s property depending on its associated resources to protect one’s land against real estate development, commercial and industrial uses, and other activities that have been mutually agreed upon by the landowner and the government agency (state, county, federal, etc.).

As a general rule, the landowner must have a valid conservation purpose. Once the easement has been set into place, the current owner and usually, all future owners of the property then are legally bound with the easement’s restrictions. It depends whether the easement is granted for a certain number of years or in perpetuity.

However, if the landowner wants to be able to take advantage of its tax benefits, the easement must be given in perpetuity. The easement is recorded in the local land records and spelled out in a legal document that becomes a part of the chain of title for the property.

Though the easement restricts its owner certain uses of the land, it does not make the property public. It also still allows the landowner to continue its current use, whether it would be for residential or recreational purposes, forestry, agriculture and so on. The easement also holds the landowner responsible for monitoring the use of the land on a regular basis, providing information and data regarding the easement to new or future landowners, maintaining property and easement-related records, as well as ensuring that the easement is clear and enforceable.

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