WHAT’S AN EASEMENT?
Decades ago communities across our country – while appreciating their local, state and federal efforts to protect land – came to understand that it was not enough, as they watched valuable open spaces within their communities being lost to development. So, a quiet movement started in which private citizens started to form local land trusts, taking conservation of the land within their communities into their own hands, organizing and informing their neighbors of the important role of conservation easements. Today, there are approximately 2,400 private land trusts in the country; 28 in Virginia. Most of these have a local geographic focus.
A conservation easement is a private legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust, such as the Land Trust of Virginia, that protects land and its conservation values permanently. Together the landowner and the land trust craft the legal easement document so that it protects the significant natural and cultural attributes of the land. The landowner still owns their property but the conservation easement is a permanent legal document that gets recorded with the property’s deed and travels with the property even when the property changes ownership.
Conservation easements are a strategy for protection and provide the opportunity for improvement of water quality, preservation of cultural and historic sites, protection of our plant and animal communities, sustaining working landscapes and natural areas, and enhancing our quality of life.