What is a Conservation Easement?

A conservation easement is an agreement that allows a landowner, on a voluntary basis, to limit the type or amount of development on their property while retaining private ownership of the land. The conservation easement is signed by the landowner, who is the grantor, and the grantee, who is the entity receiving the conservation easement. After the conservation easement is signed, it is recorded with the County Register of Deeds and applies to all future owners of the land.

The Ranchland Trust of Kansas (RTK) is a qualified grantee, who agrees to hold and administer the terms of conservation easements it accepts. We are qualified, by IRS statutes (Sec 170(h)(3), to accept and hold a conservation easement where the grantor seeks tax benefits. If RTK accepts and signs a conservation easement, the organization is pledging to enforce the terms of the conservation easement in perpetuity.

Conservation easement restrictions:
Not all conservation easements are alike. Each is tailored to the unique character of the land and the conservation desires of its owner(s) and grantee. Types of uses that are generally restricted by a conservation easement include (a) sub-division for residential or commercial activities; (b) construction of non-agricultural buildings; (c) non-agricultural commercial activities; (d) surface mining; and (e) other land uses or activities defined in the easement contract.
Conservation easements held by RTK allow continued agriculture use, do not restrict the transfer of ownership, and the grantor retains their right to control or prohibit public access.

Financial benefits:
In limited situations, a landowner may receive compensation for assigning a conservation easement on their property. This compensation is based on a qualified appraisal. Many grantors choose to donate the value of the conservation easement. Qualified donated conservation easements may be eligible for income tax benefits as a charitable contribution. In addition, the value of land accompanied with a qualified conservation easement may help reduce estate tax obligations.

Additional information:
The Common Questions on Conservation Easements is an additional resource for information regarding agricultural conservation easements. Click here to read more.