Frequently Asked Questions about Conservation Easements
What is a conservation easement?
A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust, such as Blue Mountain Land Trust, or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. The land remains in private ownership. The landowner continues to use the land and may sell it or pass it on to heirs. Typically, the landowner chooses to restrict the amount of future development of the land in order to preserve it for scenic open space, wildlife habitat, or agricultural production. The permanent protections run with the land and remain in place even after the easement donor has given or sold the land to others.
Who can consider a conservation easement?
Easement donors come from all walks of life. They are people who love their land enough to conserve it for its scenic view, wildlife habitat, cultural history, agricultural/timber production or other conservation values. Individuals, S corporations, LLCs, LLPS, and family trusts may donate a conservation easement.
Is my property suitable for a conservation easement?
BMLT has a procedure for evaluating each project we select to work on. The qualifying criteria can have a significant effect on the overall conservation value of the property.
Sometimes when we evaluate properties for conservation easements, the property does not have enough conservation value to justify the expense of creating and monitoring a perpetual easement. This doesn’t mean the property isn’t worth conserving and should be forgotten.
- Conservation minded people can help protect and preserve these types of property in many other ways.
- Deed restrictions place on property by the owner at the time of sale.
- Covenants placed on the property by the owner.
- Voluntarily agreeing to place the property in a restricted zoning category
- Selling or transferring the property to conservation minded people.
What are the benefits of pursuing a conservation easement?
One of the main benefits of a conservation easement is the peace of mind that comes from knowing your cherished land is permanently protected for future generations. The land trust can seek funding to purchase the easement, directly compensating the landowner for the diminished development rights. Giving away development rights to a qualified land trust can also result in significant income tax and estate tax benefits which may help you pass your land on to your heirs. The land trust monitors its easements to ensure that the protections are honored. Landowners considering a conservation easement should consult with their financial and legal advisors.
What is Blue Mountain Land Trust?
Formed in 1999, BMLT is a local nonprofit organization working with willing private landowners to help them conserve their land for its natural, scenic, historical and productive values. Our mission is to preserve and protect the natural lands, waters, and working farms and forests in the Blue Mountains. BMLT is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation registered in Washington and Oregon.
Where does BMLT work?
BMLT works mainly in two counties in Washington (Walla Walla and Columbia) and one county in Oregon (Umatilla). The majority of our work is in those areas that are under greatest threat.
How does BMLT protect land?
BMLT works with willing private landowners who want to protect their land from unwanted development. One way we do that is through conservation agreements with landowners to preserve their land’s conversation values in perpetuity.
What kind of land is BMLT interested in?
As a general rule, we are looking for willing landowners who have 20 or more acres with significant conservation values that they would like to conserve. Our minimum size depends on the resource being conserved and the likelihood that it can be adequately protected. We are particularly interested in productive agricultural land, wetlands, and riparian habitat. We also look to whether protecting a particular parcel has an impact – by buffering already protected land or because of some unique aspect, such as a signature landscape or important habitat for fish or wildlife. The extent of the desired conservation restrictions is an important factor as well.
Are there other organizations that accept conservation easements?
Yes. Blue Mountain land Trusts is a local land trust working in southeastern Washington and northeastern Oregon. Other areas have local land trusts and there are several national land trusts working in the Northwest as well. Each organization has its own easement criteria and requirements.
What does it cost to create a new conservation easement?
Conservation easement donors pay for their own advisor’s fees. In order to take an income tax deduction, the easement donor will need to hire an appraiser to put a value on the easement. Easement donors may also need to pay for a property survey an attorney to clear title, or a geologist or environmental specialists if there are mining issues on the property. Blue Mountain Land Trusts incurs substantial expenses investigating, negotiating, preparing and documenting each new conservation easement. BMLT does not charge landowners for these costs.
Where does BMLT’s money come from?
BMLT is supported by contributions from over 150 generous people like you and some trusts and foundations who believe that the scenic beauty, productive agricultural land, and outstanding wildlife habitat of this area should be protected for the enjoyment of future generations.