Conservation Easements —
A flexible approach to conserving your land
What Is a Conservation Easement?
A conservation easement is a legal agreement that protects the conservation values of a property by permanently limiting its uses. Under this agreement, landowners continue to own their property, control access, use it for various compatible uses, including agriculture and grazing, and can sell it, donate it, or leave it to heirs.
When you donate or sell a conservation easement to The Big Sur Land Trust, you agree to permanently give up some of the rights associated with your land. For example, you might give up the right to build additional structures, while retaining the right to graze your property or grow a crop. Future owners of your land will be bound by the terms of the easement.
A conservation easement offers great flexibility to landowners seeking to protect their land. It is a detailed legal agreement that establishes certain rights and restrictions on the landowner’s use of the property, and certain responsibilities of the landowner and the land trust that holds the easement. Every piece of property is unique, and thus each easement is a unique document. Conservation standards can be met in different ways on different properties. An easement on property containing rare wildlife habitat, for example, might prohibit any development. An easement may apply to all or a portion of your property. Except in special cases where a landowner may agree to provide it, a conservation easement does not allow for access to the land by the public.
When The Big Sur Land Trust receives an easement it assumes the permanent responsibility and legal right to enforce the terms of the easement. It will monitor the easement by inspecting the land regularly, yearly in most cases, and by communicating with the landowner about future plans, to ensure that the terms of the easement agreement are followed.
The flexibility of a conservation easement can assist in your financial planning. The easement may apply to a portion of your property, leaving some development options available for the remaining portion, as long as any development wouldn’t damage the property’s overall natural or historic resources.
A landowner may sell a conservation easement, though typically easements are donated in part or in whole to a land trust. If the donation benefits the public by permanently protecting important scenic, wildlife, or agricultural resources and it meets other federal tax code requirements, it can qualify as a tax-deductible charitable donation. Easement values vary greatly; in general, the highest easement values result from very restrictive conservation easements on tracts of developable open space under intense development pressure.
Placing an easement on your property may also result in property tax savings. By removing the land’s development potential, the easement typically lowers the market value of the property, which in turn lowers potential estate tax. Thus a conservation easement can make it easier for you to pass undeveloped land on to the next generation. Whether the easement is donated during life or by will, it can make a critical difference in your family’s ability to keep your family’s land intact.
What Does a Sample Easement Look Like?
For more information on what is included in a conservation easement, please download Conservation Easements: Our Path to Protection.
How Do We Work With You?
When you contact our office, our land acquisition staff will have a conversation with you about your property. We will begin by requesting some initial information from you:
- The assessor’s parcel number for the property
- The street address and location and a map, if available
- Information on whether there are buildings, roads, trails, fences or other structures on the property
- The ownership of the land
- Any information about rights and restrictions on the property (i.e., water, easements, etc.)
- Your goals for conserving your property
Our conservation goals will guide us throughout the process of working with you. Once we have reviewed the initial information about your property and have assessed its location in relation to other conservation areas, we will likely arrange to visit the property with you. After our visit, we will determine whether there is a good match between you and The Big Sur Land Trust for pursuing our mutual goals.
If our goals are mutually consistent, the next steps for pursuing a project together involve appraising the land and easement, establishing the terms of the donation or purchase and securing any necessary funds, and presenting the project to our Board of Trustees for approval. Then we work with you to develop a contract for the transaction. Upon signature of the contract, we conduct due diligence on the property, and move towards closing on the property according to the contract timelines.
Other Options for Protecting Your Land
Some landowners choose to donate their property to The Big Sur Land Trust, or to sell it for a price below fair market value. An outright donation, a donation over several years of undivided partial interests, a donation by will, or a bargain sale of land all offer income tax deduction and estate tax reduction to the landowner. A donation of remainder interest in land with reserved life estate transfers ownership and protection responsibilities to the Land Trust, while the donor or others designated continue to live there, usually until death.
Other Conservation Services for Landowners
The Big Sur Land Trust maintains a professional staff of land managers and ecologists and works extensively with academic partners, agencies and consultants on a variety of resource management issues and projects. Our work with landowners with whom we hold easements focuses on providing sound advice on issues that may affect the natural resource values of your property. These issues may include:
- Managing invasive and non-native species
- Road and trail management
- Habitat protection
- Habitat restoration
Our Land Acquistions Manager is available to work with you to provide advice and expertise to enhance the habitat and natural resource values on your land. Please contact Joanna Devers, BSLT Land Acquisitions Manager
(831) 625-5523, ext. 107 or email@example.com
Whom to Contact at the BSLT for Acquisitions Inquiries
- Joanna Devers, Land Acquisitions Manager
- firstname.lastname@example.org or (831) 625-5523
- Donna Meyers, Director of Conservation
- email@example.com or (831) 625-5523
BSLT - Conserve Your Land - FINAL-1.doc