Conservation Easement Q & A
Conservation Easements are powerful tools used to protect undeveloped natural features. A conservation easement provides permanent protection from land uses that could damage or destroy its natural resource, ecological, recreational, or scenic values. Each easement is drafted to reflect the conservation values of the land, the personal needs of the landowners, and the conservation objectives of the organization or agency that holds the easement.
Q: What is a conservation easement?
A: A conservation easement deed is a permanent, legally binding agreement between a landowner and a qualified conservation organization. An easement restricts the future development of the property. As a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Bear-Paw Regional Greenways is eligible to hold a conservation easement.
Q: Who owns the land with a conservation easement?
A: Privately owned land that has been protected with a conservation easement remains in private ownership. As a landowner, you continue to own and manage the land while giving up the development rights to the property. Similar to NH's current use laws, the landowner remains responsible for paying property taxes on the land. Current and future owners of easement properties may sell, gift, or transfer the land to a new owner at any time.
Conservation easements can also be placed on public lands such as town forests.
Q: What is permitted on conservation land?
Q: What do conservation easements restrict?
Q: What are reserved rights & excluded areas?
A: Reserved rights are specific uses or activities retained by the landowner. For example, landowners may reserve the right to build and maintain certain roads and buildings, create a pond for wildlife, establish solar panels, or subdivide a future house lot.
Excluded areas are portions of the property that are not included in the conservation easement area. Generally, houses and other structures and the area immediately around them are not included in the easement area. Excluded areas are still considered part of the overall property and may not be conveyed separately.
Q: Does granting a conservation easement give the public the right to enter my property?
Q: Who can grant an easement?
A: Any landowner of a property with significant conservation values may grant an easement. Conservation values include farmland soils, managed forest, unique habitat types, wildlife habitat, water resources, or proximity to other conservation lands. If a property is owned by multiple individuals, all must agree to convey the conservation easement.
Conservation easements may be donated. Bear-Paw may also acquire them at full or partial value.
Q: Are there financial benefits to granting a conservation easement?
A: There may be significant tax benefits that can be gained by placing a conservation easement on your property, depending on your financial situation.
Conservation easements can reduce property value which may reduce property tax assessment. If your land is already enrolled in the Current Use program, you may not see any further reduction in property taxes as the result of granting a conservation easement.
While Bear-Paw can provide basic tax information, we strongly recommend that you consult with your tax advisor or legal counsel to understand the personal implications of a conservation easement.
Q: How are conservation easements enforced?
A: The conservation organization or agency that holds the easement has the authority and obligation to ensure that the property’s conservation values are protected. Easement holders are responsible for documenting the condition of the property at the time the easement is signed and regularly inspecting the site to make sure the property is maintained in compliance with the easement. If activities taking place on the land violate the easement agreement the easement holder will work with the landowner to curtail the damaging activity and bring the property back into compliance with the easement. Specific procedures for enforcement are outlined in the easement document.
Q: What expenses are involved with donating a conservation easement?
A: Most conservation easements involve expenses for items such as legal fees, survey and appraisal costs or other professional services. In addition, most land trusts request a donation to an Easement Stewardship Endowment, to help cover the long-term costs of ensuring your wishes for the future of your land. Bear-Paw often works with local communities and grantors to help fund these expenses.