Frequently Asked Questions
- What is an easement?
- Why consider putting a conservation easement on my land?
- What are the tax benefits of land donation?
- Is there a minimum acreage required for land donation?
- How do I go about investigating easement programs and possibilities for my land?
- Will an easement grant public access to my property?
- Can a property under an easement be sold?
- How would an easement affect my use of my property?
- How will properties be selected to participate in the program?
- What are the financial benefits and tax implications in the program?
- What is the best preservation program for me?
- What do I do if I wish to make a change to the property that is already under easement, such as building a new structure?
Q. What is an easement?
A. A conservation easement is a voluntary, written deed agreement to protect conservation features of property, for example farmland, natural resources and scenic views. Easements prohibit more intensive land uses such as commercial, industrial, and high-density residential development.
Q. Why consider putting a conservation easement on my land?
A. Landowners who want to protect the rural or scenic character, family or historical heritage, or natural resource and wildlife value of their land may donate or sell conservation easements as a way to protect those values in perpetuity. Easements may also be a part of the estate planning process thus making it easier to pass land to the owners' heirs.
Q. What are the tax benefits of land donation?
A. There are many opportunities for tax benefits and variations that relate to specific Federal and State requirements, the value of the easement, its purpose, income and estate tax circumstances and other factors. Consult your tax advisor or contact a conservancy for additional information.
Q. Is there a minimum acreage required for land donation?
Some programs have acreage requirements. Private land trusts often accept smaller properties, especially those contiguous to other easements or valued natural and agricultural tracts.
Q. How do I go about investigating easement programs and possibilities for my land?
Contact Baltimore County, other private land trusts or governmental organizations for information.
Q. Can a property under an easement be sold?
The land can be bought and sold; the easement is recorded in the Land Records of the county government and future property owners remain legally bound by it.
Q. How would an easement affect my use of my property?
Landowners retain all rights of ownership, privacy and uses within the terms of the easement. An easement runs with the property, in perpetuity, and carries certain responsibilities such as maintaining a current soil and water conservation or forestry plan and otherwise upholding the terms of the Deed of Conservation Easement. Prospective buyers of properties under conservation are advised to carefully read the Deed of Conservation Easement and contact the organization (referred to in the Deed as the Grantee) responsible for maintaining the easement.
Q. How will properties be selected to participate in the program?
A. Each program has different criteria as indicated elsewhere on this site. Interested landowners are encouraged to submit applications to Baltimore County Land Preservation Section or other easement organizations. Once the applications have been received, the County or Land Trust will review the application to see if it meets the program criteria. If it does not, landowners will be advised of other programs that may be applicable.
Q. What are the financial benefits and tax implications in the program?
A. If you are considering applying for the program we recommend that you contact your financial and legal advisors to determine the tax implications of an easement sale or donation.
Q. What do I do if I wish to make a change to the property that is already under easement, such as building a new structure?
A. The first step is to read the Deed of Conservation Easement and then contact the agency that holds the easement to discuss your plans.
Revised July 29, 2014
Revised April 6, 2016