Humans have a unique relationship to land; it is at the same time familial, emotional and legal. Some land is passed down from one generation to the next and represents family history and significance beyond its physical attributes. Some landowners bought their land because of the beautiful setting or the richness of its natural features. Landowners who cherish their land often want to ensure it is managed in a way that maintains what they love about it into the future, including after they’re gone. One way to ensure the land is used in line with the owner’s wishes is through a conservation easement.
A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and another party – often a land trust – regarding how the land will be used for years to come. This agreement is recorded by the appropriate government entity and becomes part of the permanent legal description of the land.
Capitol Land Trust has partnered with many landowners to develop these agreements, which can be tailored to the desires of the owner while protecting important ecological values – Capitol Land Trust’s goal. Conservation easements also can be employed to maintain working farms and forests ensuring they can continue to produce agricultural or forest products, often for local use.
An easement can identify different uses for distinct parts of a property. For example, land surrounding a stream might be left in its natural state, while a field can be used for growing crops, and yet another area for residential use.
With an easement, the landowner continues to own the land while the land trust agrees to ensure that the land is used in accordance to the agreement. This includes making sure future owners comply with the easement and, if necessary, bring legal action to enforce the agreement.
Capitol Land Trust’s first conserved property was protected through a conservation easement. While the trust also has purchased land for conservation purposes, protecting land through conservation easements can be cost-effective and lessens the burden of long-term management on the land trust. With 38 easements in our portfolio, this partnership with private landowners has meant that some of our area’s most ecologically significant and important working lands are protected forever.
– reprinted with permission from the Issue 63, Fall 2017 of the Capitol Land Trust News
In 2009, the Griffin Neighborhood Association and Capitol Land Trust formed the Steamboat Conservation Partnership. Conservation easements are one important tool available to help the Partnership meet its goal of conserving the rich and diverse natural landscapes of the Steamboat Peninsula region. Click here to learn more about the Steamboat Conservation Partnership.