Summary of Conservation Easements

A conservation easement is a contract between a landowner and a land trust. Land trusts can be a government agency or a non-profit conservation organization. The easement places permanent limits on the future use of the property in order to protect the conservation values of the land. The easement may also specifically protect natural, scenic, historic, or open-space features of the property. Each easement is unique. The easement terms are negotiated between the landowner and the land trust. Except for rights explicitly given up in the easement, the landowner continues to own, use and control the land. The landowner can still decide who has access to the property and for what purpose. An easement is a particularly useful tool for ensuring protection of Virginia's natural beauty because an easement runs in perpetuity - it binds not only the current landowner, but all future owners of the property.

Virginia Land Conservation Easements can be donated to a number of public and private entities. The vast majority of conservation easements are donated to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, a state agency established by the Virginia General Assembly to hold easements in public trust. The Virginia Department of Historic Resources and the National Park Service may also accept easements. Additionally, easements can be held by certain qualified non-profit conservation organizations.

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