TYPICAL EASEMENT RESTRICTIONS
It can be helpful to think of a conservation easement as a series of promises not to do certain things, or to refrain from doing certain things that are allowed by current zoning. The legal term for such promises is ‘negative covenants’. Here are some typical negative covenants from conservation easements:
- No future subdivision of the property
- No commercial timber harvest; or no harvest other than stipulated, sustained-yield harvesting
- No commercial viticulture
- No construction of a second residence, even if local zoning or permitting would allow it
- No damming of natural watercourses
Is there a recommended set of restrictions for easements held by AVLT?
No. Each easement is unique and is custom-drafted to meet the owner’s specific goals for protecting the conservation values of the land, as agreed to by AVLT. Landowners meet with AVLT Board members to design their conservation easement. Maps are created to show property features and different zones in the easement.
What about an affirmative covenant, such as a promise to keep a meadow free of new tree growth, or a promise to shore up a creek bank that is unstable?
Conservation easements held by AVLT do not contain any provision that will require a current or future owner to spend money or take any other affirmative step to preserve the conservation values of the land. Affirmative covenants can be difficult to enforce against subsequent owners, who may lack the means to perform them. However, if the owner wants to engage in a permitted activity, such as building a road, the conservation easement may specify that it has to be done in a particular way, which may be more expensive.
Does the government—federal, state, or local—play any role in forming or enforcing any conservation easement held by AVLT?
No. A conservation easement granted to AVLT is strictly between AVLT and the donor (and subsequent owners of the property). If the donor seeks an income tax deduction for the value of a donated easement, the donor must meet IRS standards for the deduction. Aside from this, there is no government involvement in a conservation easement granted to AVLT.