Your land is important, and what you choose to do with it is a big decision. Each of our conservation projects is different, but one of our most common conservation methods is a conservation easement. We have worked with over 85 landowners to protect over 4,000 acres of land through conservation easements, thus protecting critical habitat, rivers, and streams across Central Alabama.  

What is a conservation easement?

A conservation easement is a legal agreement with us that limits the uses of your land in order to protect its conservation value. You maintain ownership, while we monitor your property to ensure the land is preserved. 

A conservation easement allows you to continue to own and use your land and to sell it or pass it on to heirs. When you donate a conservation easement to a land trust, you give up some of the rights associated with the land. For example, you might give up the right to build additional structures, while retaining the right to grow crops. Future owners also will be bound by the easement’s terms. The land trust is responsible for making sure the easement’s terms are followed. 

Conservation easements offer great flexibility:

An easement on property containing rare wildlife habitat might prohibit any development, for example, but one on a farm might allow continued farming and the building of additional agricultural structures. An easement may apply to just a portion of the property, and it does not need to require public access. 

A landowner sometimes sells a conservation easement but usually easements are donated. If the donation benefits the public by permanently protecting important conservation resources and meets other federal tax code requirements, it can qualify as a tax-deductible charitable donation. The amount of the donation is the difference between the land’s value with the easement and its value without the easement. Placing an easement on your property may or may not result in property tax savings. Please consult a tax advisor if you are considering an easement donation. 

A conservation easement can be essential for passing land on to the next generation. By removing the land’s development potential, the easement lowers its market value, which in turn lowers estate tax. Whether the easement is donated during life or by will, it can make a critical difference in the heirs’ ability to keep the land intact. 

Are you a landowner interested in conserving your land? We can help. 

Additional background material: 

“Using the Conservation Tax Incentive” – Land Trust Alliance’s overview of conservation easements 

UPCOMING: Freshwater Land Trust Half Marathon & 5k on Saturday, April 24th