“At their very best, land trusts should be about ordinary people protecting the places they love.”— - William Cronon
Land Protection Tools: About Conservation Easements
Much of the land we have conserved is permanently protected with a conservation easement. A conservation easement is a voluntary, written legal agreement between a landowner and a qualified conservation organization (like the Methow Conservancy) that permanently protects specific conservation values such as wildlife habitat, agricultural lands, riparian ecosystems, historic property, scenic views, and open space. A conservation easement limits a property’s uses in order to protect its conservation values. It stays with the land in perpetuity, transferring from owner to owner.
When people own land, they also “own” many rights associated with it, such as the right to harvest timber, build structures, excavate minerals, etc. When landowners place a conservation easement on their land, they permanently give up some of those rights in exchange for protecting the specific features of the land. For example, they might give up the right to build additional residences to protect wildlife habitat. Each conservation easement is a unique document, tailored to each property and the financial and personal needs of the landowner.
Does the Methow Conservancy own the land on an easement?
No. A conservation easement does not change the property ownership of a piece of land. The landowner still owns the land under the easement. The easement simply ensures that the restricted acreage under the easement will not be used for specified purposes (e.g., development, subdivision, etc.). The Methow Conservancy provides trained staff to help landowners (and future landowners) care effectively for the land under an easement and to ensure that the provisions of the easement are being met.
What types of land can have easements?
We accept easements on agricultural land, forest land, riparian land, and shrub land. Our easements range from seven acres to more than 1400 acres. We consider potential easements on an individual basis, and each easement that we accept represents a decision by the Board of Directors that is carefully researched and documented.
How do we ensure that easement land is protected forever?
Easements run with the land and exist in perpetuity. Each conservation easement is recorded on the title to the land and all future owners are bound by the terms of the easement. The Methow Conservancy upholds the easement, annually checking on the land with the landowner to ensure that the easement’s provisions are being followed. Each conservation easement has a succession clause that directs which qualified organization will hold the easement if the Methow Conservancy no longer existed.
If you'd like more information about conservation easements, please contact us and we can share our more detailed conservation easement information packet and talk more about your specific property and interests.