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What is a conservation easement?
A conservation easement (CE) is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust (or government agency) that permanently restricts certain uses in order to protect the land’s conservation values. Natural forests, wetlands, trails, scenic open space, working farms, timber tracts, and historic sites can all be protected by a CE.
Benefits of a CE:
Permanently protect land for you and your heirs
Conserve critical habitat for wildlife and plants
Enhance the water quality of streams and rivers
Possible tax deductions and reduced property and estate taxes
With a CE, you can:
Retain ownership of your land (public access not required)
Set aside future home sites
Continue well-managed farming and forestry
Maintain most roads and trails
Bequeath your land to your heirs or sell it with protections in tact
Conservation easements vary depending on the landowner’s wishes and the conservation values of the property. For example, a CE for a property containing rare wildlife habitat might prohibit any development except for trails, while a CE on a farm might allow continued farming and the building of additional agricultural structures.
There are many benefits to placing a conservation easement on your land. Perhaps most importantly, it is a way for conservation-minded landowners to permanently protect the land they love and ensure their vision for the land is carried out, benefiting future generations. Landowners who donate a CE know that natural forests will continue to host native plants and animals, farmland will continue to be able to be farmed, and the water quality of streams and rivers will be enhanced. The land remains privately owned, and can be left to heirs or sold.
There are also potential tax benefits for donating a conservation easement as well. Conservation easements may qualify for a federal charitable tax deduction and/or the Georgia Conservation Tax Credit. Conservation easements also may reduce property taxes and estate taxes.
Conservation easements are an important way to permanently protect private land, and landowners must decide if donating one is right for their land and their family. Landowners considering donating a conservation easement should always consult with professional legal and tax advisors as well.
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