When you donate a conservation easement to a land trust like Vital Ground, 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 habitat for rare or threatened species like the grizzly might prohibit any development, for example. An easement may apply to just a portion of the property, and need not require public access.

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Bud Moore’s Coyote Forest property in Montana’s Swan Valley was the first conservation easement that Vital Ground negotiated and held. It was Bud’s special bond with grizzlies that first led him to Vital Ground—an association that evolved into an inspiring friendship between Bud and our Vital Ground staff and board. Staff photo.

A landowner sometimes sells a conservation easement, but usually easements are fully or partially 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 also result in property tax savings.

Perhaps most important, 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.

If you own land in grizzly territory and are interested in finding out more about donating a conservation easement to Vital Ground, please contact our Director of Lands at 406-549-8650 or lands @ vitalground.org.