By Geoffrey Nichols
Many people purchasing farmland and other acreage in Virginia may find that the property has been put into conservation easement by a past owner. For most, this brings up the question of exactly what is a conservation easement and how does it benefit or hinder plans for the property?
A property that has been placed into easement has a set of ecological and/or culturally significant values that the easement seeks to protect through a variety of restrictions. While each easement is as unique as the property it covers, some of the primary drivers of easement restrictions are agricultural use, forested areas, wetland or riverine habitat, scenic viewsheds and historic preservation. Generally speaking, these will restrict the total area and location of new structures and what activities can or cannot be done in or on certain portions of the property.
If you already own land in easement or are looking at purchasing property with a specific objective in mind, it is important to consult with the land trust that holds the easement beforehand. Lands trusts are happy to work with new owners to help them achieve their goals for the property as long as these conservation values are protected in concert.