What Is A Conservation Easement?

Eastern mud turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum) found by FLC biologists during a property visit in North Carolina.

A conservation easement is, at its heart, a partnership between a landowner and the land trust. A conservation easement allows landowners to restrict development and prevent the degradation of their property’s valuable natural resources now and forever.  People are connected to the land and the life it sustains, and Foothills Land Conservancy is proud to have many partners in land stewardship across the southeast.  The conservation easement is a legal document that runs with the land; that is, the land stays protected forever, even after the landowner sells or conveys the property.  You can review general guidelines for conservation easements here.

A working cotton farm protected by a conservation easement in Cherokee County, AL.

The landowner is involved in the drafting of the easement document and may reserve certain rights (such as the right to manage their forests, hunt and fish, or even set aside areas for future houses). Each easement is unique and carefully constructed to protect the “conservation values” of each property, such as natural habitat, preservation of scenic, open space, and agriculture.

FLC biologist Shelby Lyn Sanders surveys a property on the Cumberland Plateau in Middle Tennessee.

As part of the easement process, FLC’s biologist team conducts a “bio blitz” survey, taking photos and listing all the plants, birds, and other wildlife found on the property as well as noting sensitive areas like creeks, wetlands, and rock outcrops that may warrant special protection.

Pink Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium acaule) orchid found on a conserved property in East Tennessee.

FLC’s biologists use data collected from the property to create a baseline documentation report that, along with the conservation easement deed, will serve as a guide for future monitoring and management of the property’s conservation values. Conservation easements held by FLC are monitored annually.

Land Donations

Land Stewardship