What is a Conservation Easement?
Conservation easements are legal agreements between a landowner and ODLC in which the current and future owners are bound by the terms and conditions of the easement they create. A conservation easement specifies:
- Activities permitted on land in a conservation easement: farming, forestry, recreation such as parks and trails, and limited construction.
- The property's uses which are specifically established to protect the land's conservation values as defined by the Virginia Land conservation Foundation including: agriculture, wildlife habitat, forestry, and scenic open space.
Landowners give or donate easements to all or part of their land to conservation groups. The owner then gives most development rights to the conservation group but retains ownership and traditional usage of the land. The owner can continue to live on the land until death. Land may also be passed on to heirs in a trust.
Communities and homeowners associations can also donate land for conservation of a natural area. They can place the land into conservancy using a legal agreement called an Instrument of Dedication which is recorded with the deed of the property. This ensures permanent protection of the land from any conversion to inappropriate use. Example: granting open space with small cluster housing is a far better living solution than turning large parcels of land into a housing development with no open community space.
Each conservation easement is tailored to meet the specific needs and conservation purposes of the landowner and ODLC. Our easements are an important way for landowners to protect their land while retaining ownership. For example, the landowner may sell it, live on it, use it, or leave it to heirs, but the agreed upon restrictions remain with the land forever. So if you specifically defined that no water running over the property could be dammed or stopped, the stream or run-off will always remain as a home for aquatic wildlife and for the benefit of land animals. ODLC's duty is to ensure compliance with the terms of the easement by committing to regular monitoring and annual visits to the property.
To view the complete list of conservation values, please visit the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation's (DCR) website.