Land conservation easements

A conservation easement (or conservation restriction) is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values.

When you donate or sell a conservation easement to a local land trust or the statewide land trust known as the Maryland Environmental Trust, a statewide 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 grow crops. Future owners also will be bound by the easement's terms. The land trust is responsible for making sure the easement's terms are followed.

A landowner sometimes sells a conservation easement, but usually easements are donated. If the donation benefits the public by permanently protecting important conservation resources and meets other federal tax code requirements--it can qualify as a tax-deductible charitable donation. The amount of the donation is the difference between the land's value with the easement and its value without the easement. Placing an easement on your property may also result in property tax savings.

Perhaps most important, a By removing the land's development potential, the easement lowers its market value, which in turn lowers estate tax. Whether the easement is donated during life or by will, it can make a critical difference in the heirs' ability to keep the land intact.



There are many benefits to a conservation easement, including:

  • Conservation easements offer great flexibility.
  • Conservation easements allow you to continue to own and use your land and to sell it or pass it on to heirs.
  • An easement may apply to just a portion of the property, and need not require public access.