Conservation Easement FAQ

Here’s a list of questions we are typically asked before a landowner decides to establish a conservation easement. If you have questions about the conservation easement, please use this CE INQUIRY FORM to let us know.

How does a conservation easement restrict use of the land?

You can use an easement to protect your whole property or part of it so it depends on what you’re trying to protect. If you’re placing land under easement, you can work with The PCCA to decide on terms that are right for the land and right for you.

For example, if it’s important to you to be able to build a home on the land or to subdivide your property, you may be able to reserve those rights — as long as you’re still protecting important conservation values (such as productive farmland or wildlife habitat). 

While every easement is unique, there are a few general rules. Farming and ranching are usually permitted. Development is almost always limited. Surface mining is almost always off-limits. While some easements require public access, many do not.

Can I sell a conservation easement?

Most conservation easements are donated. But if your land has very high conservation value, The PCCA may be willing to raise funds to purchase an easement. In particular, a number of federal, state, and local programs provide funding to purchase easements on farm and ranch land.

Can a conservation easement reduce my income taxes?

A conservation easement donation can result in significant tax benefits, if it meets the requirements of federal law. It may lower your federal income tax, because you can claim the value of the easement as a tax-deductible charitable donation. It may also lower your state income tax, depending on your state laws.

Can a conservation easement help with estate planning?

Yes. Often, one of the biggest advantages of a conservation easement is that it helps you pass on your land to the next generation in an affordable way. A conservation easement helps you plan for the future of your land and your family AND it can significantly lower your estate taxes.

Are conservation easements permanent?

In most cases, yes. Most easements “run with the land,” meaning that not only the original owner but all owners that come after them are subject to the easement. A few conservation programs use temporary easements — but only permanent conservation easements qualify for income and estate tax benefits.

How much land is protected by conservation easements?

Conservation easements are becoming very popular, in part because of their flexibility working with landowners to achieve their goals. As of 2010, nearly 9 million acres in the United States were protected by state and local land trusts through conservation easements.

How do I put a conservation easement on my land?

Start by talking with The PCCA. Get to know us and let us get to know you. You are welcome to talk with us about the conservation values you want to protect and how you want to use the land. Be sure to talk with family members as you consider your conservation options. This is a big decision, so it’s important also to consult with your attorney and financial advisers.

What is the role of The PCCA?

It’s The PCCA’s job to make sure that the restrictions described in the easement are actually carried out. To do this, The PCCA monitors the property on a regular basis, minimally once each year. The PCCA will work with you and all future landowners to make sure that activities on the land are consistent with the easement. If necessary, The PCCA will take on the responsibility for taking legal action to enforce the easement.

Do I need to make a stewardship contribution?

It depends. When The PCCA agrees to hold a conservation easement, we take on significant stewardship responsibilities and other liabilities. We typically maintain a stewardship fund to make sure we’ll be able to carry out these responsibilities. The PCCA may ask easement donors to contribute to this fund. But usually, the amount of the stewardship contribution is more than offset by the tax incentives for donating the easement.