Protect Your Land: Conservation Easements

A conservation easement is one of the best ways for landowners to protect the qualities that make their land special while continuing to own their land.

Easements protect conservation values

Habitat for fish and wildlife, clean water, productive or scenic values are what we call conservation values. A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and the McKenzie River Trust that is designed to protect the land’s conservation values.

Generally, easements limit or prohibit subdivision of a property, commercial and industrial activity, and activities that jeopardize the conservation values. In turn, the McKenzie River Trust assumes responsibility for monitoring the property on an annual basis to ensure that the easement is in compliance. Once the conservation easement has been negotiated, it becomes part of the property deed. Conservation easements are perpetual, ensuring that the intent of the landowner who granted the easement is honored, and the fish and wildlife habitat, clean water, and productive natural landscapes on the property are protected forever.

Conservation easements are tailored to each landowner’s needs, so no two easements are the same. For example, a landowner might want to forbid future subdivision or residential development while retaining the right to grow crops, graze animals or cut firewood. An easement may apply to an entire property or only a portion of the property, and need not require public access. For the McKenzie River Trust to work with a landowner, the conservation easement also needs to fit with our organizational mission and objectives.

Is a voluntary conservation easement right for you?

Here’s what you need to know:

  • A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a nonprofit land trust – like the McKenzie River Trust – or a government agency that permanently limits certain uses of land in order to protect important conservation values such as water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and scenic open space. The landowner continues to own the underlying property.
  • When you sell or donate a conservation easement to a land trust like MRT, you agree to give up some of the rights associated with owning land. Conservation easements can vary widely, but in all cases, future owners of the property also will be bound by the easement’s terms. The land trust is responsible for making sure the terms of the agreement are followed.
  • A conservation easement allows you to continue to own and use your land and to sell it or pass it on to the next generation. By limiting the land’s development potential, the easement can lower your property’s appraised value. Consequently, a conservation easement can lower estate taxes and can make you eligible for a special property tax assessment from the state of Oregon.
  • Most land trusts ask conservation easement donors to make a financial contribution to assist with the costs of monitoring and enforcing all of the land trust’s conservation easements in perpetuity.

Learn more

There are many good online resources about Conservation Easements. Here are a few that help answer frequently asked questions.