Conservation Easements

What is a conservation easement?

A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust that protects the conservation values of a piece of land by permanently restricting the development rights. We at Mississippi Valley Conservancy only accept perpetual easements, since they provide permanent protection by subjecting all future landowners to the same restrictions.

Who decides what restrictions are in the conservation easement?

We work with the landowner to decide what restrictions are needed to protect the conservation values of the land while providing for the financial and personal needs of the landowner and his or her family. Land subject to a conservation easement remains privately owned and managed by the landowner.

What effect does a conservation easement have on my right to use, sell or transfer the land?

The flexibility of this conservation tool allows the landowner to retain all the rights to use the land for any purpose that does not interfere with the conservation of the property as stated by the terms of the easement.

These include:

  1. Right to sell property
  2. Right to transfer the land to heirs
  3. Right to hunt, fish and enjoy other compatible recreational uses
  4. Right to manage forestland sustainably
  5. Right to have limited areas of development
  6. Right to restrict public access

Will the general public have access to the land with a conservation easement?

No. The amount of public access will be determined by you as a private property owner.

What rights does Mississippi Valley Conservancy have to land with a conservation easement?

If we obtain an easement on your property, we are obligated to oversee and enforce the easement's terms and conditions. In order to accomplish that task, we have the right to enter and inspect the property (usually once per year) to ensure that the terms of the agreement are being upheld. These visits are scheduled with the landowner (except in unusual circumstances).

Are there potential tax benefits with a conservation easement?

Yes. Donation of a conservation easement may result in income, property and estate tax benefits for qualifying landowners.

Is there a fee for these services?

There is no charge for assisting landowners with the development of a conservation easement. However, in order to meet our costs for monitoring and enforcing these easements over the long term, we do ask the landowner to consider a donation to our Stewardship Fund to help offset our expenses in this regard.

What happens during the conservation easement process?

  1. After being contacted by an interested landowner, we will set up a site visit to determine if the land qualifies under our current guidelines for land protection and to answer any questions the landowner may have about conservation easements.
  2. If the land qualifies and the landowner is interested in pursuing an easement, he or she is given a Personalizing Your Plan worksheet. This covers the various options that the landowner can consider when determining the terms of their conservation easement.
  3. We use the worksheet to draft an easement which is reviewed by the landowner and his or her family and legal advisor.
  4. If interested in tax benefits, the landowner is responsible for obtaining a certified appraisal of the land.
  5. An easement that is satisfactory to both parties will be submitted to our board of directors for final approval.
  6. The easement is signed and filed with the Register of Deeds.
  7. Annual property monitoring visits are scheduled between us and the landowner.

What types of land qualify for a conservation easement?

Any type of undeveloped or sparsely developed property can be protected with a conservation easement. We seek to protect land that has significant environmental, scenic or open space value in the bluffland region covering Buffalo, Trempealeau, Jackson, La Crosse, Monroe, Vernon, Crawford, Richland and Grant Counties in western Wisconsin.