Land Conservation Easements


Why preserve land?

(See video at bottom of page!)

First, a central tenet: land protection is not anti-development. We all hope for comfortable homes, nearby shops, good schools, and local religious institutions essential to a healthy and thriving community. Just as critical to a community’s economic and social vitality, however, are ample open green spaces — spaces that counterbalance surrounding development and provide opportunities for exercise and solitary escape. We value the critical functions of healthy natural systems in managing stormwater, protecting groundwater sources, and filtering pollutants.

For these reasons alone, land protection is a worthy cause, but land protection offers so much more to both the landowner and the citizens of the surrounding areas. Preserved lands with forests help cleanse the air of pollutants, buffer streams, add to the landscape’s overall scenic beauty, and put us in touch with the natural rhythm of the seasons. Protected agricultural lands allow us to value the agrarian roots of our county. Lands that expand parks and other open spaces offer quiet refuge to a populace besieged by stress. Captured by the newly coined term, “nature deficit disorder,” the current urban population often lacks contact with nature. In older terms, it's described as the occasional needed foray off the beaten path.

As a property owner you possess not only the land itself but a number of rights that go with that land -- such as the right to live on the land, to build a house on it, to restrict access to it, to subdivide it, to sell the land, and to pass it on to heirs. The rights to build and to subdivide your property are called "development rights", and these can be separated from the other rights of ownership. A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a property owner (whether an individual or a group such as a Community Association or corporation) and a qualified land trust, such as the Scenic Rivers Land Trust, whereby the owner agrees to limit the type and amount of future development on all or part of a piece of property. The landowner donating a conservation easement can continue to use and enjoy the land, sell the property, pass it on to heirs, etc. as before, but is generally prohibited from further development except within conditions documented in the agreement. A conservation easement does not require any public access to your property - it is still your private property.

The decision to create and donate a conservation easement is entirely voluntary. However, once the restrictions specified in the agreement are set in place, they "run with the land" and are binding in perpetuity on all future owners of the land. The land trust has long-term responsibility for monitoring use of the land to ensure compliance with the terms of the agreement.

The terms of conservation easements are flexible and are tailored to balance the needs and goals of the landowner with the protection needs of the conservation values. For example, on larger properties the terms of the easement may reserve home sites for the owner's children, or, if desired, leave a portion of the property for sensitively designed, limited development.


Is a conservation easement right for you?

Ask yourself the following questions: Do I want to preserve the natural features of my property? Do I want to help protect my watershed from the increasing pressures of development? Would the tax benefits of a conservation easement relieve my tax burden and help to ensure that we can continue to maintain our property within our family?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, consider establishing a conservation easement on your property. An increasing number of local residents are discovering that a conservation easement is the best way to meet their family goals, uphold their values and potentially realize thousands of dollars in income, estate, and property tax savings.

The positive effects of open space have been proven – people thrive when they experience green space in their daily lives. Here in Anne Arundel County, we have seen our landscape drastically change as development has increased in far-flung spaces. The work SRLT does ensures the protection of some of Anne Arundel County’s most treasured landscapes. There is also a direct link between the preservation of land and water quality, an issue of critical importance in the Chesapeake Bay region. Creating a conservation easement on your property will give you the assurance that your vision for your land will remain in place, and the benefits of open space will be enjoyed for years to come.

Below is a video about why and how landowners in Anne Arundel County have protected their land forever:


For Tax, Legal, and Real Estate Professionals:

Here is a more in depth document about the legal and tax mechanics of conservation easements from our 2016 Conservation Easement Breakfast Briefing:

2016 Conservation Easement Presentation