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Prairie Facts

What is a Conservation Easement?

Mealy Blue Sage and Englemann Daisy

A conservation easement is a legal agreement placed by a landowner that restricts certain future uses of a piece of property.  The purpose of an easement with a land trust is to ensure that the property will be managed to preserve natural features, historic sites, scenery, traditional land uses, or other values.  NPAT accepts donations of conservation easements specifically to protect prairies.

For example, a landowner who donates a conservation easement may want to preserve wildlife habitat while reserving the right to build a house or to practice limited agriculture or business activities. Or a landowner may wish to prohibit development or subdivision of his or her property so the land will continue to be used for ranching.

The goal of most conservation easements is to make sure that the current uses and condition of a piece of land are not greatly altered in the future.  NPAT accepts donations of conservation easements to protect prairies, and many other land trusts in Texas will accept conservation easements to preserve natural features, wildlife habitat, open space, outdoor recreation, or historic land and structures.

Conservation easements are usually donated to private organizations called land trusts. A land trust is a nonprofit charitable organization that protects land for its natural, historic, or economic value. The land trust is responsible for scheduling annual visits to the property to make sure that the terms of the easement are followed.

The land trust may also support the landowner by providing expertise or assisting with management activities on the property. The land trust can provide assistance and allow the landowner to conserve private property without significant governmental involvement.

Conservation easements accepted by NPAT are permanent, meaning that the easement runs with the title of the property forever. A property under conservation easement may be sold or inherited, but future owners of the land must follow the terms of the easement. Permanent conservation easements may confer tax benefits to the donor.

Conservation easements are an effective means of conserving prairies while maintaining private ownership.  The agreement is tailored to meet both the practical needs of the landowner and their wishes for conserving their prairie.  The terms of the easement are flexible and each one is unique, as they are written to carry out each landowner’s wishes for the future of his or her property.