Landowner FAQs

What is a conservation easement?

A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and the Central Pennsylvania Conservancy (CPC) that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. The landowner continues to own the land and the land can be sold or given to heirs just as any other private property. Donating the land preservation agreement may result in reduced income tax and estate tax, and possibly reduced property taxes. Easements "run with the land,” meaning that they bind all future landowners. The most common misunderstanding about conservation easements is that they must allow public access. This is not true. Public access is NOT a requirement on lands protected with a conservation easement.

Are conservation easements a commonly-used tool to protect land?

Yes, since the early 1980’s, conservation easements have grown significantly as a tool to protect land. According to the Land Trust Alliance, a record 5 million acres have been protected through conservation easements. Landowners find that conservation easements are flexible tools that provide a permanent guarantee that their land will never be developed.

How can a conservation easement be tailored to my needs and desires?

A conservation easement restricts development to the degree necessary to protect the significant conservation values of a particular property. It may apply to the whole property or to a specific portion. Landowners work with the CPC to write conservation easements that reflect the landowners’ desires and need to protect conservation values. Even the most restrictive agreements typically permit landowners to continue such traditional uses of the land as farming and ranching. Easements can include building envelopes for a home site or future home site as long as they do not impede protection of the land. Easements often allow other use rights, such as hunting and sustainable forestry, if that is what the landowner desires.  

How long does a conservation easement agreement last?

Most agreements "run with the land," meaning that they bind the original owner and all future owners to the agreements’ restrictions. Only permanent agreements can qualify for income and estate tax benefits. The agreement is recorded at the county or town records office so that all future owners learn about the easement restrictions when they obtain title reports.

What are the Central Pennsylvania Conservancy’s responsibilities regarding conservation easements?

The CPC is responsible for enforcing the restrictions agreed upon in the easement. Therefore, the organization monitors the property on an annual regular basis to determine that the property remains in the condition prescribed by the easement. The CPC maintains written records of these monitoring visits, which provide the landowner a chance to keep in touch with us.

For further detail on conservation easements, please refer to the National Land Trust Alliance publication.