A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement made between a landowner and a qualified conservation organization such as the Montezuma Land Conservancy. The easement protects land with conservation values that are significant to the public—for example: agricultural land, significant wildlife and/or plant habitat, and scenic open space.
To understand how conservation easements work, think of owning land as owning a bundle of rights. A landowner can give away or sell the whole bundle or just one or two of those rights—the right, for example, to subdivide the land. Exactly what the landowner gives up, and what she or he keeps, is spelled out in the terms of each conservation easement. [pullquote]The landowner retains all other rights to the property and continues to own and use the land.[/pullquote] Conservation easements are extremely flexible and tailored to the individual property and the landowner’s wishes for the land. An easement can protect any or all of conservation values that the landowner chooses: farm and ranch land, water rights, wildlife or plant habitat, and scenic views. The conservation values are protected by limiting the subdivision and development rights on the land. In return, the landowner gets the satisfaction of having protected the land—and sometimes receives cash or important tax benefits as well.