The goal of our land conservation program is simple: permanent preservation of land and its natural, scenic, agricultural and historic resources. We accomplish this through direct acquisition and conservation easements.
Conserving land requires careful consideration. Each landowner has a unique vision for the future of his or her property that involves financial, legal and land planning matters. Our staff, in conjunction with the landowner’s legal and financial counselors, determines the most effective and efficient way to realize the critical and shared conservation goals.
While OSI’s primary method of conserving land is through direct property purchase, we also rely on the acquisition or donation of conservation easements. Conservation easements are interests in real estate that restrict the future development of property while preserving the land and its resources in perpetuity. Terms of easement agreements can vary depending upon retained building rights, land use and whether or not public access will be allowed.
Protecting land forever
After selling or donating a conservation easement, the landowner maintains ownership of the property, and may continue to live on it, sell or mortgage it, or pass it on to heirs or other beneficiaries. When the property is transferred, the conservation easement transfers with ownership. Once a property is protected with an easement, it will be protected forever.
The easement holder assumes a perpetual obligation to monitor, enforce and ensure that the land is conserved according to the terms of the easement.
Allowing family farms to continue
In addition to protecting critical natural resources, conservation easements are an effective tool in preserving farmland and keeping family farms in operation. Placing farmland under an easement allows the landowner to continue agricultural operations through the realization of certain financial benefits while limiting non-agricultural development and other uses that are incompatible with farming.
Qualifying for an easement
When donated, conservation easements are recognized as deductible charitable donations under federal and state income tax law. To qualify for an income tax deduction, the IRS requires that a conservation easement meet certain “conservation purposes” which include:
- preservation of open space
- significant habitat
- public views
- historic lands and structures
- opportunities for the general public to enjoy outdoor recreation or education
- and other public benefits such as watershed protection.