Conservation Easements

Govewoods_processedConserved St. Croix River woodlands, St. Croix County

What is a Conservation Easement?

A conservation easement is a voluntary, permanent agreement that legally restricts the use of your land in order to preserve its conservation values. Each conservation easement is designed to reflect your land’s special values and your family’s goals. You retain the right to own and sell your property but the easement restrictions will always remain with the property’s title. Most conservation easements are donated by the landowner to a land trust, and such donations may provide significant tax advantages.

A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. Conservation easements allow landowners to continue to own and use their land, sell it or pass it on to heirs, and protect the important natural features of their property.

When you donate a conservation easement to a land trust, you voluntarily give up some of the rights associated with the land in order to protect its conservation values. Conservation easements are very flexible agreements. An easement on property that is home to rare wildlife might prohibit any development, for example, while an easement on a working farm might allow continued farming and additional agricultural structures. An easement may apply to all or a portion of a property and need not require public access.

Conservation easements are designed to benefit the public by forever protecting conservation values. Therefore, they are perpetual agreements. Future owners will be bound by the terms of the easement. The land trust or organization holding the easement is responsible for making sure the terms of the easement are upheld.

Conservation easements can be donated or sold. If a donation meets the federal tax code requirements as a qualified conservation contribution, it can be claimed as a tax-deductible charitable donation.


*Content courtesy of Gathering Waters Conservancy

“Conservation will ultimately boil down to rewarding the private landowner who conserves the public interest.”

~ Aldo Leopold
Conservation Economics (1934)