conservations easements


what landowners need to know

What is a conservation easement?

In general, a conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement that is the result of a landowner choosing to limit certain uses of his or her land — like development — to conserve the natural and traditional values of the land. Landowners grant conservation easements to protect the resources of their property while retaining the rights of private ownership. This contract between the landowner and the Land Trust is recorded in the county records and follows with the deed of the property.  The terms of the conservation easement represent a mutual agreement between the landowner and Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust of how to conserve the natural and traditional values of the land. The landowner does not enter an agreement that he or she is not satisfied with.

Why a conservation easement?

Landowners love their land. They also understand the challenges that threaten the integrity of their land. As development costs become increasingly difficult to compete with, many landowners are concerned their family’s home and way of life will disappear, forever. Conservation easements can safeguard family land from being developed, forever. In addition to the landowner’s desire to keep his or her land intact, there can be federal estate and income tax benefits associated with granting a conservation easement.

Does the landowner give up ownership of the land?

No, the landowner continues to own the property and continues to be responsible for property taxes. He/she may sell it, live on it, use it, graze or farm it, or leave it to heirs, but the agreed-upon restrictions remain with the land forever. 

Can I still work my land?

Yes. A typical conservation easement encourages continued use for agricultural production, grazing, timber harvesting, and other uses consistent with the terms of the easement. Please remember that the conservation easement terms represent a mutual agreement between the landowner and the Land Trust.

Does the Land Trust dictate how easement donors will manage their property?

No, the management of the property remains the responsibility of the landowner. The Land Trust is responsible for working with the landowner to ensure the management of the property is in concert with the easement. The Land Trust also strives to help landowners enhance the resources on their property and achieve their management goals through programs supported by partner agencies and contacts. 

Under easement, is it still private property?

Yes. A landowner who chooses to enter a conservation easement agreement retains full ownership of his or her land.

Can I lease my land for hunting or farming?

Yes. For conservation easements, the issue is not the income from the activity, but the impact of the activity on the conservation values protected by the easement.

Can I sell my property if under easement?

Yes. The landowner retains title to the property and can sell it or give it to others. The conservation easement “runs with the land,”meaning the conservation easement is recorded as a perpetual easement on the property, and a purchaser takes the title to the property, subject to the restrictions and conditions of the conservation easement.

Do conservation easements require public access?

The term easement can be misleading. Conservation easements do not require public access. While a landowner may choose to allow public access, there is no obligation to do so.

How long does a conservation easement last?

All conservation easements with Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust are permanent and remain with the land regardless of future ownership.

Can an easement be broken?

No. Conservation easements are done in perpetuity and the Land Trust has a legal obligation to make sure the terms of the easement remain intact forever.

How is the value determined?

When a conservation easement is granted, the restrictions on future development often reduce the appraised value of the property. The value of a conservation easement is generally estimated as the difference between the market value of the property unencumbered (“before”) and the market value of the property subject to the easement restrictions (“after”), as determined by a qualified appraiser. For example, the “before” market value of a developable property is the amount a person would pay for the property at the current time with its development rights available. (Note that the “before” value is not the sale price of the potential developed lots.) The “after” market value is the amount a person would pay for the property, knowing that it is permanently restricted from some or all development. There is usually (but not always) a substantial difference between the before and after values, and the difference is the value of the conservation easement.

Are there costs associated with conserving land?

Conserving your land typically involves some costs. Costs involved in closing conservation easements include: title reports, surveys, baseline documents, appraisals, legal services, financial advisory services, and so on. If you wish to seek a charitable deduction for your conservation easement donation, you will also need to cover the cost of an appraisal. Additionally, we do ask conservation easement donors to make a one-time contribution to establish a Dedicated Stewardship Fund for your property, which ensures our ability to support and uphold your conservation goals and the resources of your property in perpetuity. We ask landowners to share in the costs associated with granting a conservation easement to the extent they are able. In cases where these costs create a barrier to conserving important lands, we work with landowners to find funding.

Who pays for stewardship costs?

Donating a conservation easement is a considerable commitment for a family to make. Similarly, accepting responsibility for the easement’s perpetual monitoring is also a significant commitment for the Land Trust. Easement donors are asked to consider contributing a tax-deductible stewardship contribution to be used solely for overseeing the easement. The stewardship contribution is a suggested charitable donation and is not a prerequisite for acceptance of a conservation easement. 

How are stewardship costs calculated?

Stewardship costs are calculated for each property and estimate the funding needed to monitor and enforce the conservation easement agreement in perpetuity. These costs account for annual insurance, property monitoring, administration, easement compliance and legal defense. Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust is responsible for ensuring the Stewardship funding needs are met before we can close the conservation easement. We ask that landowners consider contributing to this effort. Stewardship is our commitment to our landowner partners that we will honor their wishes and ensure the terms that were agreed upon are upheld in perpetuity. 

What are the tax benefits?

The donation of a qualified conservation easement can be considered a charitable gift under federal tax law, potentially providing significant estate and income tax benefits. A donated conservation easement may also lower estate tax liability, enabling the safe passage of family lands from one generation to the next. Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust strongly encourages landowners to consult their attorney or tax advisor to fully explore the estate and income tax benefits flowing from the charitable donation of a conservation easement.  

Click the image above to open the Landowner Information Packet.

Click the image above to open the Conservation Easement Brochure.

Succession Planning for Landowners course by Idaho Farm and Ranch Center:

Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust Logo

Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust is a private, nonprofit 501(c)3 charitable organization incorporated in 2004, and a “qualified organization” within the meaning of section 170(h)(3) of the IRS Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 82-6092501

Photographs throughout this website were donated by Sarah Jackson and various other Land Trust supporters over the years.


Contact us

109 N Arthur Ave, Suite 300
Spaulding Building
Pocatello, ID 83204

Mailing Address
PO Box 1404
Pocatello ID 83204

Office: (208) 240-6045
Field Cell: (208) 241-4662