Photo: Jane Davis

Photo: Jane Davis

A Brief Introduction to Conservation Easements

By Maine Coast Heritage Trust in Cooperation with the Land Trust Alliance

What is a Conservation Easement?

A conservation easement is a flexible tool that protects land while leaving it in private ownership. The easement – a legal document – guides future uses of a property, regardless of ownership. A landowner generally donates the easement to a qualified conservation organization, which ensures that the conditions of the easement are met over time.

How Easements Work:

When you own land, you “own” many rights associated with it (e.g., the right to harvest timber, build structures, extract minerals or operate a farm – subject to zoning and other laws). By placing an easement on your land, you relinquish some of these rights. You might, for example, give up the right to build additional residences while retaining the right to grow crops.  Conservation easements protect a variety of land types including farms, forests, historic areas, wildlife habitats and scenic views. The landowners and prospective easement holder (generally a land trust) tailor the easement to protect the land’s natural and cultural values, meet the landowners’ financial and personal needs and meet the conservation goals of the intended recipient.  

Holding Easements:

The land trust that receives an easement (the holder) assumes permanent responsibility for monitoring the property and enforcing its legal terms. At the time of the easement gift, the holder may request a donation to help defray future stewardship expenses.

Tax Benefits of Donating Easements:

Nearly all landowners who opt for conservation easements decide to work with a land trust – which may qualify as a tax-deductible gift if the easement meets requirements of the federal tax code and provides significant public benefits. Potential tax benefits associated with conservation easements include income, estate and property tax relief.

For more information about donating a conservation easement, please contact our office and staff!


The Numerous Benefits of Conservation Easements:

  • Landowners retain title to their property and may continue to live on it, sell it, or pass it on to heirs, knowing that it will always be protected.
  • Easements may eliminate or greatly reduce estate taxes, preventing the forced sale of properties.
  • Easements can also provide landowners with income tax and property tax reductions by eliminating unwanted development value.
  • Easements are flexible, adapted to the particular needs of the landowner and the resources of the property.
  • Easements can reduce the potential for disagreement when lands are passed on to the next generation.
  • Easements offer permanent protection, applying to all future landowners. A land trust ensures that restrictions are followed in perpetuity.

Useful Links:

Kennebec Woodland Partnership

Publications:

From the Kennebec Woodland Partnership, Your Woodland, a guide for Kennebec County Land Owners

Resources from the Maine Land Trust Network, a program of the Maine Coast Heritage Trust:

Conservation Easements: An Introduction for Maine Landowners

Conservation Options: A Guide for Maine Landowners

The Public Benefits of Conserved Lands

For more information please visit: www.mltn.org, www.mcht.org