For information on the benefits and mechanics of obtaining and maintaining a conservation easement, see the following links:

What is an Easement?

A conservation easement is a private legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust, that protects land and its conservation values permanently. Together the landowner and the land trust craft the legal easement document so that it protects the significant natural and cultural attributes of the land. The landowner still owns their property, but the conservation easement is a permanent legal document that gets recorded with the property’s deed and travels with the property even when the property changes ownership.

Conservation easements are a strategy for protection and provide the opportunity for improvement of water quality, preservation of cultural and historic sites, protection of our plant and animal communities, sustaining working landscapes and natural areas, and enhancing our quality of life. 


Criteria for accepting land conservation easements are based upon federal, state and local guidelines which require that each easement property has some “significant” conservation value of forests, wetlands, waterways, endangered species habitat, historic sites, battlefields, important farmland and/or scenic areas.


  • State income tax benefits, including tax credits under the Virginia Conservation Tax Credit Program (which are transferrable and may be sold) 
  • Federal income tax deductions 
  • State and federal estate tax benefits 
  • Lower local property taxes 
  • Land protection and preservation

Easement FAQ

Changes to Easement:

Amendments to conservation easements are always possible. However, changes to easements are only permitted if they do not diminish the easement’s conservation value protections. The most common type of amendment involves a landowner of an easement property choosing to further reduce the property’s development potential by relinquishing a retained dwelling unit right.

For example, if an easement written in the past permitted four future dwellings/parcels on a 200-acre farm, an amendment could be written to limit the farm to one homestead residence. Limiting this future development potential would improve the property’s open space protections and would also generate additional tax benefits for the landowner, which makes it an attractive option. Amendments can also be written to clarify ambiguous or outdated language. Sometimes landowners choose to amend their easement specifically to strengthen conservation-specific restrictions, such as creation of additional water resource protections, or language targeted at protecting habitat for a particular species that may have recently taken residence on the property (i.e., bald eagle nesting areas).

Can I develop on the land?

Keeping land open and available for working farms is one of the main goals of easement programs. In most cases, agriculture is always permitted on conservation easement properties. The easement itself will be specifically crafted, however, to require things such as best management practices and livestock stream-access limitations. One of the challenges of crafting the language of a conservation easement is to adequately and effectively protect conservation values while also permitting a large variety of uses on each individual property, including in the future.

Is it possible to get rid of an easement?

No. Conservation easements are permanent land interests vested in the easement holder for the purpose of protecting conservation values. The property interest donated to the land trust “travels with the land,” and is a permanent part of the title record.

Information by Land Trust of Virginia.