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Real estate programConservation easements

An easement is a way to convey some of the land rights associated with ownership to another party. Utility, highway and driveway easements are examples of how both parties use the land in a specific way. Similarly, a conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a government agency, a non-profit conservation organization or a land trust that permanently limits specified current and future uses. As with other easements, landowners retain ownership and many uses of their property such as agriculture, hunting and fishing. However, a conservation easement will also help protect water quality, habitat, and natural resources.

Although each conservation easement is unique, some examples of land rights purchased by state or local agencies include the right to improve streams, fence livestock out of the stream corridor, permit public access, manage trees, plants, and shrubs by cutting and/or planting, and prohibit development. The agreement will also indicate the geographical boundaries of the easement. This legal document is recorded at the Register of Deeds Office. Land ownership stays with the landowner while easement rights "run with the land" which means the agency retains the easement rights if the landowner sells the land. The new landowner must abide by the easement.

The Department of Natural Resources purchases conservation easements as defined in Section 700.40 of the Wisconsin Statutes. Conservation easements enforce restrictions to protect natural resources or water quality. As an example, the department could buy a conservation easement in the Baraboo Hills Recreation Area to protect natural resources and recreational or open space use.

Last revised: Sunday July 22 2012