Two-minute Takeaway: What Is an Easement?

The Two-Minute Takeaway

A quick explanation of scientific terms and concepts we use regularly in conservation

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Conservation goals are accomplished in many ways. One lesser known method that the Conservancy uses to protect important natural resources is through establishing conservation easements with landowners.

An easement constitutes a legally binding agreement that limits certain types of uses or prevents development from taking place on the land in perpetuity while the land remains in private hands.

Wildflowers at the Beezley Hills Preserve on Washington's Columbia Plateau. © John Marshall

Wildflowers at the Beezley Hills Preserve on Washington's Columbia Plateau. © John Marshall

Throughout Washington state landowners have made these agreements with The Nature Conservancy. The Conservancy manages easements in the San Juan islands, Puget Sound coast, near our Moses Coulee preserve, and in central and south-central Washington. While conservation easements generally target the preservation of the property, they can still have allowances for farming, grazing, cutting trees, gravel mining, structure development, etc.  These allowances in part try to balance the need for preservation, while not completely compromising the landowner’s ability to use the property.  These landowners see that there is value in their property that is greater than the economic gains they could make by developing the land.

Establishing a conservation easement also means that the landowners will be maintaining a relationship with the Conservancy. Stewardship staff members meet with the landowner once each year in order to monitor and report that the land condition has not been modified. This means that an easement is a commitment from both parties, which demonstrates just how serious this agreement is!