A conservation easement is a voluntary, legally binding agreement between a landowner and a land trust, state agency, or other qualified entity, through which certain rights to the property are permanently transferred. Most often, these are development rights, but easements can also be designed to protect other values of land: ecological, recreational, scenic, or historic. The landowner retains ownership of the land and all rights not transferred through the easement, and continues use of the property as productive forestland, farmland, or home.
FSM works with landowners to determine which values will be protected and what uses the landowner wishes to be continued on the property, such as timber harvesting, and drafts an easement reflecting these choices. Our emphasis is on easements that protect special natural features (such as lakes, rivers, mountains, and wildlife habitat) and public recreational opportunities, and that emphasize exemplary forest management practices and long-term stewardship.
How does a conservation easement work?
Easements can either be donated or sold by the landowner. They are recorded in the registry of deeds, and must be honored by all future landowners.
The terms of an easement (such as prohibition of development) must be monitored regularly to ensure adherence. Monitoring is generally carried out by the easement holder, but is sometimes monitored by a different entity.
Why does FSM use conservation easements?
Conservation easements have proven to be an invaluable approach to conserving Maine’s productive forestlands. This is because they can be tailored to fit the unique nature of each property and sustain the values and traditions of Maine. With a long history of private forestland ownership, Maine remains nearly 90% forested and features exemplary natural communities and wildlife habitat, world-class recreational opportunities, and sustainably managed forests. FSM is committed to helping forestland owners conserve their managed forests and define how the land will be used in the future. If you are a Maine landowner interested in exploring conservation options for your property, we encourage you to contact the Forest Society of Maine.