In the United States, a conservation easement is an encumbrance — sometimes including a transfer of usage rights (easement) — which creates a legally enforceable land preservation agreement between a landowner and a government agency (municipality, county, state, federal) or a qualified land protection organization (often called a “land trust”), for the purposes of conservation. It restricts real estate development, commercial and industrial uses, and certain other activities on a property to a mutually agreed upon level. The property remains the private property of the landowner.
The decision to place a conservation easement on a property is strictly a voluntary one where the easement is sold or donated. The restrictions of the easement, once set in place, “run with the land” and are binding on all future owners of the property (in other words, the restrictions are perpetual). The restrictions are spelled out in a legal document that is recorded in the local land records and the easement becomes a part of the chain of title for the property. Appraisals of the value of the easement, and financial arrangements between the parties (land owner and land trust), generally are kept private. (Wikipedia, 2010)
Our recommendation for those considering a conservation easement for their prairie is to contact the Kansas Land Trust in Lawrence. Director of Land Protection, Jerry Jost, will get you started on the right foot. See the following attachments for more helpful information about conservation easements.