A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a land owner and typically a land trust that protects the use of private land for conservation purposes. 

If you are interested in setting up a conservtion easement on your land, please complete our landowners questionnaire at the bottom of this page and contact us

 

A qualified conservation easement needs to have conservation value that intends to preserve the land’s: 

  •  Environmental qualities 

  •  Cultural and historical qualities 

  •  Recreational qualities 

For examples of such qualities see Public Benefits.  While there will likely be public benefit from conserving your private land, this does not mean that the public will have access to your land.  The public benefits from the secondary effects of good land stewardship, particularly along waterways in our area.  For example, good land stewardship along the Grasse River in Canton ensures that Taylor Park beach is always safe for recreation.  Similarly in Potsdam, protecting land along the Raquette River makes the downstream Pine Street beach freely open for swimming for the entire community.  

The property owner voluntarily gives up the right to pursue some activities on the parcel of property within the conservation easement to preserve the conservation values of the land. The rights and responsibilities of the landowner and the easement holder are explicitly detailed in the easement document. The land within the easement remains private property, and establishment of a conservation easement does not open the property to access by the public, unless public access is a specified condition of the easement document or the landowner chooses to permit it.

Conservation Easements are Perpetual 

Easements are filed with the deed for the property, ensuring they are legally binding. While it is possible to implement an easement that is in effect for a limited span of time, easements are usually perpetual. Perpetual easements are recorded on the property deed. When the property is transferred to a new landowner, the new owner must continue to adhere to the restrictions specified in the easement. 

Benefits of a Conservation Easement 

For some landowners, knowing that some treasured feature of their property will be protected in perpetuity is incentive enough to establish an easement. Additional benefits may include: 

• Lowered Property Taxes- Assessors should consider the value of the conservation easement when determining the assessed value of your land resulting in a potential reduction in real property taxes

• NYS Conservation Easement Tax Incentives- 25% of the property tax paid on land under the conservation easement, capped at $5,000.00, is refunded annually to the landowner as a NYS income tax refund even if the benefit is greater than the income tax paid

• Federal Tax Incentives- the value of the conservation easement may be deducted as a charitable donation; the deduction may not exceed 50% of adjusted gross income. If not fully deducted in the year of the donation, the excess deduction may be carried forward until fully deducted (the carry forward is limited to 15 years)

see NYS Conservation Easement Tax Credit and Tax Incentives for Land Conservation for more info.

St. Lawrence Land Trust’s Role 

Two principal activities of the St. Lawrence Land Trust are identifying landowners that are willing to establish conservation easements on their property that will benefit the public, and securing adequate funding to complete the work involved in establishing the easement and in providing long-term stewardship. If you are interested in exploring whether a conservation easement is a good option for your property, contact us.

When partnering with the St. Lawrence Land Trust, the prospective easement grantor can expect open and direct communication throughout the process of establishing the conservation easement. The process typically occurs as follows:

1. Land trust works with owners to determine their wishes and conservation goals

2. Land Trust determines the conservation value of the property and how the public can benefit

3. Land Trust determines if it has the resources to hold the easement

4. Land Trust coordinates background research:

  • Property Survey

  • Title Search

  • Environmental Risk Assessment

5. Conservation easement is drafted, negotiation of rights and obligations

6. Easement is legally filed (becomes part of the deed). A fee is asked to create stewardship fund to enforce the easement

7. Land Trust creates a baseline for monitoring and stewardship

 
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