Conservation Easement Checklist

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Conservation Easement Checklist
 
Placing a conservation easement on your land is an action that should not be taken lightly. It is a deeded restriction that will run with your land forever. However, that being the case, it also ensures that your land will be conserved as it is for generations to come. 
  • Make sure that you read and fully understand all of the provisions of the conservation easement. If something is unclear or you would like an example ask the drafter of the easement to explain what the provision means to them (usually this will be a land trust or government entity, known as the ‘easement holder’). 
  • Hire a lawyer. Have an attorney that is familiar with conservation easements review the document. Ask them to explain all of the legal terms and what it means for your property. 
  • Be aware of what the conservation purpose is. A conservation easement must be a for a ‘conservation purpose’ to qualify for federal tax deductions. Know what this purpose is, what is intended to be conserved, and if there are multiple purposes, how they interact. 
  • Know what land is subject to the conservation easement. The conservation easement may or may not cover all of your land. Know the boundaries. The conservation easement may also contain building envelopes, or places where you can build additional houses or structures. Know where these are, if the land is suitable for building, and how big they are
  • Conservation easements limit subdivision of your land. Be familiar with this provision and know how mineral and water rights are affected. 
  • Make sure that the conservation easement accurately depicts your property in its current state. The conservation easement will include a description of roads, structures, and natural features of your property (including wildlife). Check the maps and descriptions to make sure that everything is clearly and accurately noted. 
  • Construct a management plan. If you want to continue to farm, ranch, or log your land create a management plan and review its provisions to make sure that it will work for you. There are ways to 'reserve the right' to use your land in a certain way, so long as it is not inconsistent with the terms of the easement. 
  • Public access provisions. The conservation easement may or may not allow the public to enter your property. Know if it does, where the public will be allowed, and if you can collect fees. 
  • Know what rights the holder has. The easement holder has rights to enter and monitor the property. Know how frequently they will do this and what they will look for. Ask how they will enforce the easement and what kind of notice they will give you.