Land trusts use two basic methods to protect land: fee-title (or fee-simple) acquisition and conservation easements. 

  • Fee title or fee-simple acquisition is a transaction in which a land trust purchases or accepts donations of actual property. The property is subsequently permanently protected from future sub-division or development.
  • Conservation Easements are voluntary legal agreements between landowners and a land trust, created to protect certain natural and traditional values of the property in perpetuity. Typically, development rights are permanently extinguished and the owner continues to own and manage their land in a manner consistent with the Conservation Easement parameters.

A Conservation Easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust created by both parties to protect certain natural and traditional values of the property in perpetuity.

Each Conservation Easement, or Easement, is unique to the specific property for which it is written, and based on the landowner’s needs and long-term goals. A typical Easement might limit future land divisions or construction of additional homes, or ensure that lands remain available for agricultural uses.

Land placed into a Conservation Easement still belongs to the landowner, who continues to live on and manage the land consistent with the values the Easement seeks to protect. The land and its associated Conservation Easement can be passed on or sold like any other piece of property.  The role of Wallowa Land Trust in holding the easement is to ensure that mutually agreed-upon terms and conditions of the Easement are honored over time.
Download WLT's Conservation Easement brochure.

Does land with a Conservation Easement remain private property?
Yes. The landowner retains full ownership of the property, including all rights as reserved in the Easement. Land protected by a Conservation Easement may be sold, bequeathed, mortgaged or otherwise transferred like any other property. The Easement is permanently recorded with the deed and remains with the land regardless of future ownership

How do Conservation Easement transactions occur?
Conservation Easements are often donated by landowners, who may realize significant tax savings from their contribution. In other cases, a land trust can purchase an Easement from willing sellers at fair market value if adequate funding can be secured.

Most landowners who donate or sell Easements to a land trust also contribute financially to a Stewardship Fund to help with management costs.

How are Conservation Easements valued?
The monetary value of a Conservation Easement is determined in a fair market appraisal by a qualified appraiser. It equals the difference between the value of the property unencumbered by the Conservation Easement and the property’s value computed with the Easement in place.

What kinds of Conservation Easements exist?
There are as many kinds of Easements as there are people and landscapes. Easements serve to protect fish and wildlife habitat, historic and cultural lands, to perpetuate working lands (including forests and grasslands on farms and ranches), and scenic natural areas. Some Easements allow public access while others do not, depending on the landowner’s wishes.

What tax benefits are associated with Conservation Easements?
Conserving land can result in income tax benefits, as the donation of a Conservation Easement may be treated as a charitable gift by the Internal Revenues Service, making the value of the Easement tax-deductible. (Federal tax incentives may reward agricultural Easement donations at an even higher rate.) Potential reduction of estate taxes can limit the strain on future heirs and aid in intergenerational transfers of intact properties. Each landowner and their legal counsel must consider these issues and their own situation.