Landowners choose conservation easements because they see the threats that development and unwise land use pose to the lands they love.  Protecting their property with a conservation easement gives them the peace of mind that their land will remain as beautiful natural areas and/or working lands in perpetuity, and the potential to also receive tax benefits offers an extra incentive. 

Landowners choose conservation easements because they see the threats that development and unwise land use pose to the lands they love.  Protecting their property with a conservation easement gives them the peace of mind that their land will remain as beautiful natural areas and/or working lands in perpetuity, and the potential to also receive tax benefits offers an extra incentive. 

The first step is to think about your long-term stewardship wishes for the land. If you want your property to stay as a working farm and/or in its natural state – free from commercial and residential development – then a conservation easement might be a great option for you. Consider what reserved rights you want to allow for on your property and what restrictions you want to see included in the agreement. 

The conservation easement handout provided here can assist you in learning more about what is involved and what these considerations might look like.

The next step is to contact the Foothills Land Conservancy office to schedule a meeting (by phone or in person). This meeting will allow for a discussion concerning your wishes for the property, a chance to ask questions, and allows staff members to become familiar with your property and move forward with scheduling a formal site visit.

FLC is a regional land trust, providing conservation related programs across Tennessee along with the entire southeast region of the United States. Foothills has projects in the states of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

No, FLC has worked with landowners on conservation easement tracts that include just a few acres. We have also worked on projects that pertain to several thousand acres. Every property is unique and we look forward to assisting landowners with tracts of all sizes and topography.

The landowner continues to own the property but forgoes development rights. They can choose to keep the property a working farm and/or in its natural state. They could also decide to sell, bequest, or transfer the property at any time.  An easement lasts in perpetuity; that is, forever. The CE ‘runs with the land’, meaning that the original owner and all subsequent owners are bound by its restrictions.

The Conservancy views any and all property worthy of land preservation consideration. If you are considering a conservation easement for tax deduction purposes then there are certain criteria that must be met in order for the IRS to consider a tax deduction. Those criteria include properties with significant natural habitat, scenic/open space – including farmland and forest land, outdoor recreation areas, or historic preservation value have the potential to qualify for certain IRS tax deductions.

The conservation easement handout provided here is for informational purposes only and can assist you in learning more about these IRS classifications.

A conservation easement protects the land from being commercially or residentially developed. The ownership of the property stays with the landowner. It is up to the landowner to plan for a future transition of ownership.     

Conservation Easements can be limited by the state law where the property lies and IRS regulations as to what they can specifically entail. Some of those limitations include whether the easement would be protecting identifiable natural habitats, whether the property contains a scenic viewshed, whether the property is held open for public recreation or if its contains something that has historic preservation value.

Conservation easements do not necessarily prevent the taking of lands through eminent domain, and they cannot be used to satisfy density requirements for adjacent developments.

A few other considerations… An easement agreement typically does not permit public access to the protected areas, unless specifically desired by the landowner and the conservation organization. The CE does not change the ownership of the land. Property owners continue to use and enjoy the land consistent with the terms of the easement. It also does not prohibit all subdivision. The property can often be subdivided, subject to the terms of the easement agreement.

There are several considerations when discussing conservation easement related costs – both for the landowner and the land trust. Factors can include the size, location, and topography of the property. Please reach out to FLC staff to discuss costs specific to your potential project.

Additional information pertaining to costs…

Initial Retainer: For the land trust there are costs associated with staff time, which include site visits and document preparation. These initial funds allow staff to conduct background research on the property’s natural features as well as document them in a baseline report that accompanies the easement documents.

Stewardship Donation: Around the time the CE is put into place, FLC also asks for a stewardship donation. The stewardship donation is split among various funds that include a legal defense fund and land stewardship fund. The land stewardship fund assists with costs related to annual monitoring activities for FLC’s conservation easement properties.

Additional Costs: There can be additional fees for the landowner that pertain to things like hiring their own legal counsel and they may need to have a survey and/or appraisal completed. All that being said, FLC tries diligently to keep costs as low as possible for all parties involved.

Foothills Land Conservancy’s Board and staff will certainly provide any assistance we can for a landowner whose wish is to turn their land into a public park. While we cannot guarantee that FLC will be able fulfil a landowner’s wish for our organization to potentially own and/or manage the park, we can explore options and other forms of assistance.

Yes. FLC’s Board and staff review potential donations of land, known as fee simple donations, as well as other in-kind donations. The FLC Board decides whether to approve the donation.

With a fee simple donation, the landowner grants all property rights, title and interest to the land trust. The land trust owns and manages the land. It is the FLC Board of Directors decision whether or not to place a conservation easement on a fee simple property. FLC continues to pay property taxes. If it’s located within a greenbelt, FLC has to re-apply for the designation.

FLC provides a page on our website where you can view protected land currently for sale. You can also contact the FLC office for more information.

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