A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement between a landowner and a qualified organization (a land trust) that protects land, or a portion thereof, from residential or commercial development, for the purpose of protecting the important natural attributes contained on the land. The easement essentially transfers the development rights to the land trust. Once transferred, the development rights are effectively extinguished, forever. The conservation easement may also limit other types of uses from taking place on the land such as mining, clear-cutting and other disruptive activities.
A conservation easement allows individuals to maintain private ownership of the land, manage the land for various uses, and enjoy the land, all while protecting the important resources. Landowners are able to sell or gift the land to others, but conservation easements are perpetual and must be abided by future landowners.
The landowner and the land trust enter into this agreement voluntarily. KLT has no regulatory authority; we cannot force an unwilling landowner to do a conservation easement.
KLT generally acquires conservation easements from landowners by donation. However, in certain circumstances, we are able to find funding to purchase the development rights. The ability to locate funding depends on many factors. If funding is unavailable and the conservation easement is donated, the landowner may qualify for income tax savings. There may also be substantial estate tax savings as well.
The Kaniksu Land Trust is responsible for upholding the terms of the easement, including enforcement if necessary. All easements are monitored annually. The land trust maintains a stewardship fund specifically earmarked for easement management and enforcement.
There is no one size or type of property that would automatically make it suitable for a conservation easement. It depends on the conservation values of the land, the desires of the owner, and the risk of the property to be developed.
Conservation easements are one of the most powerful and effective tools available for the permanent conservation of private lands. Their use has successfully protected millions of acres of land while keeping it in private hands and generating significant public benefits.
Completing a conservation easement is a complex process. If you are potentially interested in working with KLT, please contact a staff or a Board Member.