The most traditional tool for conserving private land, a “conservation easement” (also known as a 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. It allows landowners to continue to own and use their land, and they can also sell it or pass it on to heirs.
See Oklahoma's Land Legacy and their use of conservation easements across the state, here.
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Across the nation, farms, ranches, and open spaces are rapidly disappearing to commercial and residential development. In Oklahoma, roughly 35,000 acres of open space is lost annually, and the rate of loss is increasing. Often, the most productive farmlands nearest our communities and the lands most valued for conservation and wildlife are under the most intense threat of development. Fortunately, a number of public agencies and nonprofit organizations are working to preserve our land through conservation easements.
SOME FACTS ABOUT CONSERVATION EASEMENTS:
- Conservation easements are voluntary, compensatory tools to protect land from development pressure at prices that are more affordable for public agencies and conservation organizations than outright purchases. A conservation easement is an economical way to protect scenic views and other open spaces including parks, trails, and drinking water sources that are important to the community.
- Just as importantly, easements leave private lands in private ownership, and keep the land productive, providing essential landowner stewardship and contributing to the local tax base.
- Conservation easements are flexible documents; they can be tailored to meet the needs of individual landowners. They can also be tailored to suit unique properties. The specific development rights that a landowner will forgo or restrict are fully negotiable between the landowner and the qualified conservation entity. For example, while restricting subdivision, landowners may want to reserve the right to develop a limited number of home sites.
- Conservation easements can provide significant tax incentives for the land owner.
- Conservation easements nurture and protect the beauty and integrity of a community and establish a legacy of land stewardship to support future generations.
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