Conservation easements provide landowners with a legal means of protecting their properties' conservation values while maintaining ownership, retaining certain uses of their land and earning significant tax benefits.
A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and an easement holder by which the landowner imposes permanent restrictions on the way the property is used. Conservation values are protected by extinguishing some property rights, such as mining and subdivision, while reinforcing rights such as passive recreation, agriculture, silviculture and some limited construction.
Conservation easements are generally held by governmental entities or specialized nonprofit organizations, known as land trusts.
There are about 50 organizations in Georgia that are qualified to hold conservation easements, including the Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission, which accepts agricultural conservation easement donations that meet defined agricultural purposes. The holder of a conservation easement has both the right and responsibility to monitor and enforce easement terms in perpetuity.
The Executive Director of the Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission sits on the Land Conservation Council.
The State of Georgia encourages the use of perpetual conservation easements as a way to protect the significant conservation values of property in the state. The Georgia Conservation Tax Credit Program provides Conservation Tax Credits to donors of conservation easements.
While most conservation easements in Georgia are donated, they can qualify for competitive grants and low interest loans as part of the Georgia Land Conservation Program. Easement donors may also claim a federal tax deduction.