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Conservation Easement

As part of its mission to conserve and protect natural resources and prime agricultural lands, the CSLRCD holds conservation easements on agricultural, open space and wetland lands of special natural resource value in Morro Bay, Los Osos, Arroyo Grande and Nipomo. The CSLRCD is the owner of Chorro Flats Ecological Reserve, which is includes both an agricultural conservation easement and a wetland reserve.

The total land under conservation easement with CSLRCD is 363.4 acres.

What is a conservation easement?

A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement that permanently restricts specified activities on a piece of property, in order to protect conservation values such as prime agricultural land, wildlife habitat, biodiversity, water quality, and open space. The conservation easement is granted by the property owner to a conservation organization or government agency. The present owner who establishes the easement (the "grantor") retains title to the property and continues to own it, and can sell it or give it to others just as he or she would otherwise. The owner’s use of the property continues, subject to the restrictions agreed to in the conservation easement. The restriction stays with the property and is binding on all future owners. Conservation easements are site-specific documents that help landowners ensure that important natural values are protected forever, while keeping the property in private ownership and use.

The finances of a conservation easement

The value of an easement, aka its purchase price, is the difference between the fair market value of the property before and after the easement restrictions are put in place. Because conservation easements usually reduce the market value of the property to reflect only the allowed uses -- eliminating most development potential -- the gift of a conservation easement can bring significant income or estate tax deductions.

In the case of the conservation easements and properties held by the CSLRCD, grant funding by a partnership of numerous federal, state and local agencies and organizations made the purchase of easements possible.

Types of conservation easements

There are various kinds of conservation easements, focusing on protecting specific resources. The CSLRCD has worked with agricultural conservation easements, wetland reserves, and open space easements. The specific terms of each easement vary with the nature of the property and the landowner’s goals.