Americans who want to conserve their land can turn to land trusts — nonprofit organizations that work with landowners interested in protecting open space.

Your local land trust can help answer your questions and guide you through the process of protecting your land. As you make decisions, you should also consult with your own qualified, independent legal and financial advisors. And, of course, it’s important to talk these decisions through with all family members who will be affected.

Land conservation options

Land trusts have many options available to help landowners conserve, protect and restore land.

Two of the most popular options are:
  • Fee simple: Where land trusts own and manage land that is donated or sold.

  • Conservation easement: Where landowners and a land trust enter a legal agreement to permanently limit the use of an area to protect conservation values. Landowners can either sell or donate the easement to land trusts. Landowners retain ownership of the land, can sell their land in the future or pass it on. But the conservation restrictions remain forever.

Benefits for landowners

The most common way to protect land is with a conservation easement. A conservation easement is a voluntary, legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values.

Landowners have found that conservation easements offer great flexibility yet provide a permanent guarantee that the land will not be developed. For example, an easement on property containing rare wildlife habitat might prohibit any development, while one on a farm might allow continued farming and the building of additional agricultural structures. An easement may apply to only a portion of the property and need not require public access.

A landowner may sell a conservation easement, but in most cases, easements are donated. If the donation benefits the public by permanently protecting important conservation resources and meets other federal tax code requirements, it can qualify as a tax-deductible charitable donation. The amount of the donation is the difference between the land’s value with the easement and its value without the easement. Placing an easement on property may or may not result in property tax savings.

A conservation easement is just one of many options. You may also donate or sell property, donate or sell development rights, or do a bargain sale with a land trust.

The opportunity of a permanent conservation easement can protect a family farm or ranch, allowing for future generations to continue in agriculture. For my family and the future farmers who will tend our land, we are eternally grateful for that opportunity.
Dean Fedde, third-generation Nebraskan farmers who protected his land with the Nebraska Land Trust

Take the next step to conserve your land.

Learn more about the best option to conserve your land by contacting your local land trust.