Protecting Your Land

Conservation Easements

Conservation EasementA conservation easement is the legal glue that binds a property owner’s good intentions to the land in perpetuity. Donors of conservation easements retain title to their property. They grant conservation easements to protect their land from inappropriate development. A conservation easement runs with the title to the property regardless of changes in future ownership.

Granting an easement can yield tax savings. Think of land ownership as holding a bundle of rights that may include the right to subdivide, construct buildings, irrigate, harvest timber or restrict access. A landowner may sell or donate the whole bundle of rights or just one or two of those rights. To give away certain rights for the purpose of conservation, while retaining others, a property owner grants a deed of conservation easement to a land trust like the Nassau Land Trust (NLT). The donation of an easement may qualify as a charitable contribution. As such, it may reduce income, estate and gift taxes.

What are the Terms of a Conservation Easement?

A conservation easement spells out the uses that are consistent and inconsistent with the conservation values desired by the landowner. It is a voluntary agreement between a landowner and the Nassau Land Trust. No two conservation easements are alike. Each is tailored to the unique character of the land and the conservation desires of its owner(s).

The following are general examples of the types of uses that can be allowed by a conservation easement:

  • Continued agricultural and silvicultural use
  • Construction of buildings, fences, water improvements, etc., necessary for agriculture and compatible with conservation objectives
  • Sale, devise, gifting or other method of transferring parcels, subject to terms of the easement
  • Landowner control of access
  • Additional family and employee residences compatible with conservation objectives
  • Wildlife and fisheries protection, restoration and enhancement projects
  • Any and all uses not specifically prohibited

Tax Savings Conservation Easement

Types of uses that are generally restricted by a conservation easement include:

  • Subdivision for residential or commercial activities
  • Construction of non-agricultural buildings
  • Nonagricultural commercial activities
  • Dumping of non-compostable or toxic waste
  • Surface mining

A conservation easement assigns three "positive rights" to NLT:

  • The right to preserve and protect the property according to mutually agreed upon terms.
  • The right (with proper advance notification to the landowner) to enter the property to monitor activities (usually once a year). 
  • The right to "enjoin and restore," which assures that the landowner’s desires, as spelled out in the easement, are enforceable. The terms of the easement do not in any way negate or modify state or federal law. Specifically, a conservation easement cannot prevent condemnation.

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