What is a Conservation Easement?

A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a property owner and a qualified land trust designed to protect the natural or historic features of the site. Pursuant to a  conservation easement, the right to further develop a property can be transferred to the land trust, but title to and ownership of the land can remain with the property owner.

This transaction is accomplished by placing permanent restrictions on the types and amounts of development that may occur on the property. The types of restrictions placed upon an easement property will vary on a case-by-case basis depending upon the features of the property, the wishes of the property owner for its future use, and the policies of the conservancy. Easements provide an effective tool for achieving permanent protection of lands while allowing people to retain ownership and enjoyment of their property. Easements are binding upon all current and future owners of the property.

Typically, an easement is given in the form of a donation from the property owner to the conservancy. This donation has monetary value and may provide a tax benefit to the donor, assuming the easement meets the requirements set by the federal government. To be claimed as a charitable donation, an easement must: be a qualified, real property interest; be given in perpetuity to a qualified organization; and be donated solely for conservation or historic preservation purposes.

In considering an easement for your property, you should be aware that Radnor Conservancy cannot advise property owners regarding the value of the tax benefits for which they may qualify. Persons interested in conservation easements for their properties should consult with their own legal and financial advisors to explore the financial benefits of conservation options in greater detail.

The information provided here pertains to conservation easements designed to protect land from more intensive development. Persons interested in easements to protect an historic building should seek out information on fa├žade easements and other preservation easements from organizations such as the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia or the National Trust for Historic Preservation