What is a conservation easement?
A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust like Vital Ground, or a government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. Landowners retain many of their rights, including the right to own and use the land, sell it and pass it on to their heirs.
Conserve Your Land through an Easement
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. Vital Ground is responsible for making sure the easement’s terms are followed in perpetuity.
Each conservation easement involves a different individual or family with whom we strive to develop a solid working relationship, and each easement requires regular monitoring to ensure conservation agreements and values are upheld. To date, Vital Ground has been very fortunate to partner with committed “first-generation” conservation easement donors—the original landowners who negotiated the easement, and who fully subscribe to its terms.
We must also meet the expectations of federal law. The Internal Revenue Service requires that we document the time and money spent monitoring and defending conservation easements throughout the year, and federal law requires that land trusts possess the resources necessary to monitor and defend conservation easements for which tax deductions are taken. To help meet these requirements, Vital Ground reserves a stewardship endowment for each conservation easement that we accept.
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 Conservation Program Manager at 406-549-8650 or firstname.lastname@example.org.