Photo by Nigel P. Kent

What is a Conservation Easement?

Conservation easements are an important tool that Genesee Land Trust uses to protect land.

Conservation easements are flexible and tailored to meet the natural characteristics of the land and the landowner's needs. A conservation easement is a voluntary and perpetual legal agreement between a private property owner and a land trust that permanently restricts development of the property and protects the unique character of the land.

Conservation easements can be written that permit agriculture, forestry, recreation, and other open space uses.

Conservation easements generally prohibit subdivision, residential and commercial development, construction and activities detrimental to the natural characteristics of the land. A conservation easement runs with the land - that is, the original owner and all subsequent owners are bound by the restrictions of the easement.

Genesee Land Trust is responsible for seeing that the restrictions are maintained over time and through all subsequent changes in ownership.

  • Public Access: Although Genesee Land Trust occasionally invites members on outings to a conservation easement property with the owner's consent, conservation easement properties remain private property and therefore no public access is permitted unless agreed to as part of the Conservation Easement.
  • Ownership: The landowner retains the right to sell, mortgage, lease, or transfer the property. The responsibility of all future landowners is to use the property in ways consistent with the easement.
  • Permanency:  The executed easement document is recorded at the County Clerk’s Office. This enables all future owners and lenders to learn about the restrictions when they obtain title reports.
  • Stewardship: Genesee Land Trust is responsible for upholding the terms of the easement, including legal enforcement if necessary. All easements are monitored yearly.

There is no one size or type of property that would automatically make it suitable for a conservation easement. It depends on the conservation value of the land, the desires of the owner, and the level of development pressure.

Another good source for property protection information can be found in the helpful brochure below created by the Land Trust Alliance.

For information on conservation easements, please contact Genesee Land Trust Director of Conservation Programs, Lorna Wright, at (585) 256-2130 or by email at lwright@geneseelandtrust.org.