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How We Protect Land

What is a Conservation Easement?

A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement between a landowner and an easement holder (such as a qualified non-profit conservation organization like Groundswell or a unit of government) to protect land by permanently restricting certain uses.

What is allowed under a conservation easement?

Farming, forestry, hunting, installing or maintaining fences, selling or bequeathing the land, and restoring wildlife habitat are some of the uses that landowners typically retain under conservation easements.

For example, on an easement in the Black Earth Creek valley, one of the places where Groundswell focuses its work, a landowner wanted to maintain productive agricultural lands and protect groundwater recharge areas, while prohibiting additional residential development and most commercial use of the land. The easement he signed with the Land Trust protects the agricultural and conservation values of the land, while allowing him to continue to own and use the property.

Public access is not typically granted by a conservation easement, although it can be if a landowner desires.

Can a landowner get paid for placing a conservation easement on his or her land?

Federal, state, and local government grant programs fund the purchase of conservation easements for land that has certain features (such as high-quality soil) or is located in some areas (such as adjacent to parks or wildlife areas).  Otherwise, a landowner who wishes to place a conservation easement on his or her property may have to donate the conservation easement (and in that case, the landowner may be eligible for tax benefits).

Why would a landowner consider placing a conservation easement on his or her land?


What rights does the easement holder have?

The easement holder typically has two rights: the right to enter the property for inspection (with notice to the landowner—usually this is done once a year), and the right to enforce the terms of the conservation easement (to uphold the landowner’s wishes for the property).

Who can I talk to if I am interested or if I have more questions?

For more information about Groundswell and how we can work with you, call Jim Welsh at (608) 258-9797.

Other Conservation Options

Donating or Selling Your Land for Conservation

If you are interested in donating or selling your land for conservation purposes, Groundswell may be able to help. In some situations, the Land Trust buys land as additions to state or county parks, trails, or natural resource areas.

Reserved Life Estate

With a reserved life estate, you sell or donate your land to Groundswell but continue to live on and use your property for the remainder of your life, or that of your immediate family members.

More Information

Please contact Jim Welsh at Groundswell at (608) 258-9797 if you would like more information about any of the options mentioned above to protect your property.

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