Conservation Easements

There are a number of ways you can protect your land from unwanted development. You may give or sell the land to a conservation group. This method has both advantages and disadvantages.

  • You are relieved of all responsibilities of ownership, including management and property taxes, and can rest assured your good stewardship of the land is upheld, but you no longer own the land.
  • If the land is either donated or sold to a qualified conservation group at a reduced rate, the difference between the full appraised value and the bargain price may be considered a charitable donation and may therefore provide an income tax deduction.

If you want to permanently protect your land while retaining full ownership, a conservation easement may be the right choice for you.

What is a conservation easement?

A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement that allows a landowner to limit the type or amount of development on their land while retaining full ownership rights. The agreement is signed by the landowner (easement donor) and the recipient of the conservation easement (such as a land trust organization) and is recorded at the County Register of Deeds. The agreement applies to the present owners as well as all future owners of the land. The conservation easement recipient agrees to enforce the terms of the agreement forever.

Why do people grant conservation easements?

People grant conservation easements because they want to protect their land from unwanted development forever while retaining ownership.

Are there any financial advantages of donating an easement?

People who donate conservation easements may receive a federal income tax deduction. The conservation easement must be considered perpetual, meaning that it lasts forever. The amount of the deduction is determined by the value of the conservation easement, which is determined by the difference between the fully appraised value of the land and the sale price of the conservation easement.

Who pays for the appraisals and legal fees?

The landowner is responsible for the appraisals and legal fees, however, the Candia Conservation Commission may be able to help with the costs incurred.

If land is already in current use, why would someone want to donate a conservation easement?

Landowners whose land is in current use already benefit from a much lower tax rate on the land, however, the land can be taken out of current use and developed at any time. In order to permanently protect the land while retaining full ownership, a conservation easement is needed.

If a landowner donates a conservation easement, does that mean that the public have access to the property?

Public access to the land is not allowed unless it is specifically granted by the landowner in the terms of the easement.

Can a landowner give away or sell the land protected by a conservation easement?

Since the landowner retains full ownership rights to the land, they can give away or sell the land. However, all future owners are subject to the terms of the conservation easement.

How long does a conservation easement last and who upholds it?

To be eligible for a federal income tax benefit, a conservation easement must be considered perpetual. The recipient of the conservation easement agrees to monitor the land (usually annually) to ensure the terms of the agreement are upheld.

Does the easement have to cover all of the landowner's property?

No. Some conservation easements only cover a portion of the landowner's property, depending on the wishes of the landowner.

What kind of land can be protected by conservation easements?

IRS regulations require that the land have "significant" conservation values to qualify for a conservation easement. This includes forests, wetlands, endangered species habitat, beaches, scenic areas and other criteria. The recipient of the conservation easement may also have its own criteria for accepting conservation easements. Contact the Candia Conservation Commission or the Candia Open Space Committee for more information.

How can I find out more information?

If you would like to talk to someone concerning your plans to conserve property here in Candia, please contact the Conservation Commission at info@candiaconservationcommission.org. A member of the Commission will get back to you.