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A conservation easement 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. It allows you to continue to own and use your land and to sell it or pass it on to heirs.

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 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.

Conservation easements offer great flexibility. An easement on property containing rare wildlife habitat might prohibit any development, for example, while one on a farm might allow continued farming and the building of additional agricultural structures. An easement may apply to just a portion of the property, and need not require public access.

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 or may not result in property tax savings.

Perhaps most important, a conservation easement can be essential for passing land on to the future generations. By removing the land's development potential, the easement lowers its market value, which in turn lowers estate taxes. Whether the easement is donated during life or by bequest, it can make a critical difference in the heirs' ability to keep the land intact.

Rondout-Esopus Land Conservancy accepts a property for conservation easements when it meets set criteria that further its stated goals for protecting and conserving open space in the community for each grantor and future owners of the property. Agreements for accepting a grantor’s property are flexible and may be tailored to specific needs.

The following criteria apply for property worthy of being accepted for stewardship by RELC

- The property is of national or local historic value.

- The property has topographical features worthy of conservation and preservation, or adds significantly to the esthetic value of the region.

Protection and Conservation
- The property is contiguous to land already protected by easements or other conservation restrictions, or is in close proximity to private land already preserved or likely to be permanently protected.

- The easement will set an important precedent for protecting and conserving other land in close proximity.

- The property affects the integrity of a significant watershed, creek, pond, wetland, river, or other body of water or aquifers.

- The property affects the integrity of pastures, woodlands, or other topographical terrain of natural importance requiring protection of threatened, rare, or endangered plants and animals.

Land Use
The property is in or is capable of active agricultural or forestry use.

- The property is of sufficient size (i.e. more 3 acres).

- The property supports significant agricultural cultivation or other endeavor.

- The property buffers agricultural land, wetland, wildlife habitats or other sensitive natural areas, or includes important wildlife habitats and/or known migration routes.




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