A contractual agreement usually entered into by a landowner with a governmental unit or non-profit organization to voluntarily restrict the development of their land. Conservation easements are usually filed in a registry of deeds, so that they run with the land and may be found by subsequent landowners during a title search. Very often, by giving up the right to develop portions of their property, landowners who enter into conservation easements may receive a charitable tax deduction for transferring or donating the value of their development rights to a public or nonprofit entity and will also usually have their undevelopable land appraised at a lower value for property tax purposes.
Owners of land with valuable environmental resources or characteristics can help communities preserve these resources by voluntarily restricting their rights to develop their property, thus promoting the public good without the public needing to expend scarce budgetary resources to purchase the property.
Conservation easements are voluntary instruments and landowners may have to be convinced to give up or to donate their valuable development rights to their properties. Some government or nonprofit organizations may also not have the resources or willingness to maintain the donated property in perpetuity if given the easement or other limited interests in the land.
Example 1: Illinois
Description: An easement grant between landowners adjacent to Bull Creek and the stakeholders association.
Example 2: Michigan
Description: A model conservation easement for sites within the state of Michigan. The link above has access to an online version as well as a downloadable document.
Example 3: Wisconsin
Description: Dunn, WI has the following sample easement available for its citizens to model future agreements from.