Land conservation is truly an area where individuals can make a difference. What Maine will look like 100 years from now is being decided day-by-day, parcel-by-parcel, by landowners like you. Landowners hold the key to our region’s well-being.
The tool most frequently used by the SRLT and other land trusts to conserve private land, a “conservation easement” is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. It allows landowners to continue to own and use their land, and they can also sell it or pass it on to heirs.
Landownership comes with an assortment of rights: rights to develop it, farm it, harvest timber, subdivide, etc. When you donate a conservation easement to a land trust, you give up some of the rights associated with the land. For example, you might give up the right to build additional structures, while retaining the right to harvest timber. Future owners also will be bound by the easement’s terms. The land trust is forever responsible for making sure the easement’s terms are followed. This is managed through “stewardship” by the land trust.
Conservation easements can be a flexible but powerful tool. An easement on property containing critical wildlife habitat might prohibit any development, for example, while an easement on a farm might allow continued farming and the addition of agricultural structures. An easement may apply to all or a portion of the property; in some cases a landowner may not include a portion of the land s/he may want for future development or sale. Public access is typically not a requirement.