Frequently Asked Questions regarding Conservation Easements


Does Mississippi Valley Conservancy require public access to private lands with conservation easements?

No. Public access is not a requirement of a conservation easement.  Some Conservancy easements are on lands owned by municipalities or other partners and are open to the public, such as Holland Sand Prairie, Greens Coulee, or Eagle Eye State Natural Area because public access was a priority of the project. Most private landowners choose to keep their properties closed to public access. 

Are people with conservation easements on their land required to pay property taxes?

Yes. Property taxes may or may not be impacted by a conservation easement depending on whether the conservation easement changes the property tax assessment category.  For example, if the property taxes are assessed as agricultural land and the conservation easement allows agricultural activities, the property taxes are unlikely to change. 

Do people who enter into conservation easements on their land get some other kind of tax benefit?

Sometimes. Conservation easements may have impacts on both income and estate taxes. The landowner who conveys the easement may be eligible for an income tax deduction if the project meets IRS requirements. The easement value is determined by an independent, qualified appraiser. Every easement appraisal is different, since it is based on the site-specific features and specific easement restrictions. More information about the conservation easement tax incentive can be found here. A conservation easement may reduce estate taxes for passing land on to heirs, helping keep family lands in the family. 

When someone “donates” a conservation easement, does that mean they donated their land?

No. It means the Conservancy did not pay that landowner to put a conservation easement on the land. As with all conservation easements, the landowner conveying the easement works with the Conservancy to determine the restrictions on future use of the land and the Conservancy has the right to enforce the easement. The landowner continues to own the land as private property.

Can land enrolled in Wisconsin’s managed forest law program also be enrolled in a conservation easement?

Yes. A conservation easement can include the provision to allow selective timber harvests conducted according to a forest management plan approved by the Conservancy.  

Who owns the land with a conservation easement?

The landowner retains the ownership of the property. The conservation easement only restricts specific rights, such as the right to develop, subdivide, or mine.