Frequently Asked Questions about Conservation Easements
What is a conservation easement?
A conservation easement is a legally binding contract that enables a landowner to limit the use and/or development of the land in perpetuity. The goal of the easement is to protect the land, as a habitat for wildlife and plant life and/or as an agricultural resource, from the threat of development.
What makes a parcel appropriate for a conservation easement?
The most important consideration is the degree to which the property incorporates significant conservation values. A very small, heavily developed parcel, for example, may not pass this test. Because the process of drafting and finalizing conservation easements is often quite time-consuming, AVLT seeks to focus its efforts on parcels with significant conservation value. An AVLT representative can visit a prospective easement site to help a property owner identify the conservation values on his/her land and determine whether the land is appropriate for an easement.
Who are the parties to a conservation easement?
There are two parties: the property owner (grantor) and the grantee. The grantee can be a non-profit entity such as AVLT, the State of California, or a local government agency.
What role does each party play?
The grantor creates or grants the conservation easement. The grantee receives and then and holds the easement, normally monitoring it once a year to confirm that the limitations of the easement are being observed.
Must all of the property in a conservation easement be subject to the same limitations, or can there be different zones specified in the easement, with different limitations?
Most easements held by AVLT include two or more zones, each with specific limitations. Typically, there will be at least one residential zone. There may also be a conservation zone, or there may be multiple special-purpose zones, such as a forest zone, a riparian zone, and/or an agricultural zone.
What happens if the grantor sells the property?
The new owner is bound by the restrictions of the easement, and must comply with them. The easement is a formal, recorded document that binds all subsequent owners.
Can easements be reversed or removed?
No. They are permanent. They can be expanded to increase the protections and limitations, but cannot be amended to diminish protections of the land.