What is a Conservation Easement?

While MOST holds easements on three properties in Marin, land trusts around the country have protected more than 16 million acres using conservation easements. These protected places include scenic lands, significant plant and animal habitats, productive farms and ranches, and properties with historic or cultural significance.

A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and a conservation organization or government agency that permanently limits a property’s uses to protect its conservation values. Each easement’s restrictions are tailored to the particular property and to the interests of the owner and easement holder. Landowners retain title to their lands, subject to easement restrictions. Easements must provide some documented public benefit and be perpetual—all future owners are bound by the restrictions.

An easement can be donated, and if it complies with Internal Revenue Service codes and regulations, donors can qualify for income- and estate-tax benefits. The easement’s value is based upon the difference in the land’s fair market value before and after it is restricted by the easement, as determined by a qualified appraiser.

When a MOST easement is signed and recorded, the owner conveys to the land trust the right to enforce these restrictions. The land trust then performs annual monitoring visits.

If you have any questions about conservation easements, contact MOST at info@mostmarin.org.