What is a Conservation Easement?
A conservation easement is a private legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust, such as Potomac Conservancy, that protects land and its conservation values permanently. The landowner and land trust together to write the easement to protect the natural and scenic qualities of the land. The landowner retains title and continues to own, use, and enjoy the property, subject to the terms written in the conservation easement.
Why Donate a Conservation Easement?
- Preserve your land’s special qualities
- Make a gift to your children or grandchildren
- Prevent future landowners from harming the land or “un-doing” your work to improve your property
- Help maintain the landscape that defines your community
- Enjoy the property tax, state income tax, and federal estate and income tax benefits associated with an easement donation
What Do Conservation Easements Do?
- Restrict or prohibit subdivisions
- Restrict the number and size of structures
- Prohibit industrial/commercial uses (except agriculture, forestry, etc.)
- Prohibit mining, oil or gas extraction, and major excavation
- Prohibit cutting of stream-side trees and vegetation
- May require a Forest or Farm Management Plan for some activities
- Protect your property’s features- scenery, historic sites, farm soils, etc.
Remember, YOU decide the specifics of YOUR easement!
How to Protect Your Land with a Conservation Easement
The steps to create a conservation easement are outlined below (click here for a printable version). The process takes three to six months at minimum and can go on for over a year. It is wise to start early if you want to finish by a particular date or take advantage of tax benefits in a given year. There are additional time considerations for those wishing to sell Virginia income tax credits.
1. Consider Goals & Resources
2. Consult with Attorney & Accountant
3. Negotiate Terms
4. Title Search & Subordinations
7. Baseline Documentation
8. Finalize Conservation Easement
9. Sign & Record
staff will write a draft easement, and we will work together until a final, mutually agreed- upon document is created.
The easement signing is similar to other real estate closings. You and a Conservancy representative will sign the final Deed of Conservation Easement, and a notary public will notarize all signatures. You and the Conservancy will sign an affidavit certifying the accuracy of the Baseline Documentation Report. The Conservancy will ensure that the easement and mortgage subordination (if applicable) are recorded in the county land records. You and the Conservancy will each keep a copy of the signed conservation easement and baseline report. Recording costs (~ $50) are the landowner’s responsibility, though the Conservancy can occasionally cover them. Some counties do not charge recording fees for donated conservation easements.
For more information, contact Emily Warner, Land Protection Manager, at 540-667-3606 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.