Conservation Agreements: What You Need to Know

You know well how important your woods are, and you’re committed to conserving them for your family, your community and the plants and wildlife that call it home.

But you also know how difficult that can be. High property or estate taxes can force families to sell land they would rather keep, and development pressures on forests, farmlands and other special places are intense. Every day, more than 5,000 to 6,000 acres of land are lost to development in the U.S.  

If you want to permanently protect your land and its resources, a conservation agreement is one way to do so. A conservation agreement, also known as a conservation easement, is simply a voluntary agreement between a landowner and a government agency or land trust (usually a conservation organization) to restrict certain kinds of real estate development or commercial and industrial activities in the landowner’s woods. That might mean, for example, that you limit the right to subdivide or develop your property, but maintain your rights to live on it, sell it or pass it on, build your own home or structures on it, and manage your trees and other natural resources.

The easement “holder”—your government agency or land trust partner—enforces the easement for you, periodically checking on the property to make sure the agreement is upheld.

In return, you get tax and other economic benefits and the satisfaction of knowing that your woods are protected for the time period of the agreement. Conservation agreements are also called conservation easements, and they are gaining ground. More than 100,000 conservation easements covering 22 million acres are in effect across the U.S.

Next: Key facts (and myths) about conservation easements 

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