What is a Conservation Easement?
A conservation easement is a legal agreement (land protection agreement) between the Land Trust and a landowner that protects and preserves the "conservation values" of the land. The "conservation values" can be forest, shoreline, wetlands, animal habitat, farmland, scenic views and open space. The Land Trust agrees to protect and steward the conservation values on the property forever. The agreement is recorded with the deed to the property. Even if the property changes hands, the agreement remains in force.
The Land Trust currently holds 47 conservation easements (42 private & 5 public). These are interests in land--the Land Trust does not own the land. The publicly owned easement lands include the original Gazzam Lake Preserve property, the Peters Tree Farm addition to the Gazzam Preserve, Meigs Park and the adjacent Meigs Farm, and the Olson Property addition to the Ted Olson Nature Preserve. Forty conservation easements were created with private landowners to protect parts or all of their land. No public access is required or granted on those private properties.
Often landowners extinguish one or more development rights on their property and may get substantial income and property tax benefits from doing so.
Does your land qualify? Look at our Conservation Checklist below to see!
The following criteria are intended to guide rather than limit the actions of the Trust.
Goals and Purposes Checklist
To qualify for selection property must meet ALL of these criteria:
- The property is located on Bainbridge Island.
- The property is of natural, scenic or historic interest, has recreational or agricultural value, or is in active agricultural use.
- The property is of sufficient size that its conservation resources are likely to remain intact, even if adjacent properties are developed or sufficient neighboring property is either already protected or to be included as to have the same result.
- Protection of this property aids sound land use planning, promotes land conservation, and encourages careful stewardship of land and water resources.
- The property's conservation values can be sufficiently protected by the Bainbridge Island Land Trust, given its capacity to monitor and steward.
Public Benefit Checklist, including natural resource value
To qualify for selection, property must meet at least one of these criteria.
- Complies with IRS criteria for the "conservation purposes" test of Sec 170 (h)(4)(A) or the IRS code
- Contributes to protection of lands in furtherance of community plans or policies.
- Contains species or natural communities identified as being at risk.
- Contains relatively natural wildlife habitat, ecosystems, or natural features.
- Is in active agricultural use or provides an example of historic agricultural use.
- Contains shoreline, tidelands, waterways, riparian corridors, aquifer recharge areas, watershed or other lands necessary for protection of water supply, water resources or wetland habitat.
- Buffers shoreline, tidelands, agricultural land, wetlands, wildlife habitats, or other sensitive areas.
- Provides a buffer for, or is close or contiguous to, existing conservation easement, park, preserve or other protected land.
- Protects scenic views from public roadways, waterways or recreation areas.
- Public access for education or recreation will be permitted.
- Offers an opportunity to protect an open space or a resource in a targeted area.
- Provides connection to other open protected or open space lands that is important for movement of wildlife between habitats or through developed corridors so that natural areas do not become isolated "islands."
- Has historic or archaeological value, or is adjacent to and buffer for such lands.
- Contains unique or outstanding geographic/natural characteristics.
- Offers significant relief from urban closeness and/or helps define community form.
Factors which may preclude Trust involvement: A property may meet the selection criteria favoring a land protection proposal and still may not be accepted if one or more of the following considerations apply:
- The property's values are primarily scenic, but are not readily visible or accessible to the general public.
- The property is small and there is little likelihood of adjacent properties being protected.
- The proposed open space is part of a development proposal which, overall, is likely to have significant adverse impacts on conservation resources.
- Adjacent properties are being, or are likely to be, developed in a manner that would significantly diminish the conservation values of the property in question.
- There is reason to believe that the land/easement would be unusually difficult to manage/enforce, for example because of multiple or fractured ownerships, frequent incidence of destructive trespassing, fencing restrictions, irregular configuration, etc.
- The landowner insists on provisions in a conservation easement that the Trust believes would seriously diminish the property's primary conservation values or the Trust's ability to enforce the easement.
- The property cannot be acquired by the Trust with reasonable effort in relation to the property's conservation value.
- The property is found to be irreparably contaminated or altered.
- Ethical or public image problems exist in association with the acceptance of this project.
- Another organization is more appropriate to steward the project.
The Board's Discretionary Role
All the preceding notwithstanding, the Board of Trustees of the Bainbridge Island Land Trust retains discretion over acquisition or disposition and will evaluate each project and proposal on its own merits after careful investigation of the property, its resources, and its public benefits.