Conservation Easements: Windfall or Straightjacket?

  • October 22, 2007
  • • Written by: James D. Timmons Lara Daniel 

Fall 2007, Vol. 32, No. 2

Abstract: Urban sprawl is leading to the development of millions of acres of open space, farms and forest land each year in the United States. There is a growing effort to combat loss of so much green space, and the conservation easement is one such tool being used. In reality, this tool is more like a restrictive covenant. A grantor who enters into a conservation easement agrees to dedicate the portion of his or her property encumbered by the easement to a specified use (or non-use, as the case may be) or agrees to adhere to specified practices thereon . . . in perpetuity. Perpetuity is a long time, so a landowner who enters into such an agreement not only signs away his right to change the use of the land, but he also gives away the rights of any future owner.