Conservation easements are one of the newest and most owner-friendly tools available for private landowners wishing to preserve or promote a certain conservation ethic on his or her property.

The Mississippi River Trust (MRT) holds conservation easements on 49,873 acres of private land. In donating a conservation easement to the MRT, a landowner agrees to restrict certain property uses, such as subdividing land for residential or commercial development. In return, a landowner typically receives certain tax benefits.

Any landowner of record may donate a conservation easement establishing self-imposed restrictions on the uses of his or her property. A landowner gives up only those rights that are consistent with achievement of the conservation intent specified in the easement. All other rights of ownership remain unchanged. Except for the specific restrictions set forth in the conservation easement document, the landowner retains all other rights which were originally conveyed when the property was acquired. The land can be sold, leased and/or conveyed to heirs at the death of the original owner. Additionally, hunting, fishing, other recreational uses, timber management, and utilization of other natural resources such as minerals can all be enjoyed as long as such activities are consistent with the restrictions that are chosen and placed in the initial easement conveyance.

Completing a conservation easement usually takes about three to six months. However, the duration can vary depending on the size of the property, the complexity of the easement document, title issues and other unforeseen factors.

Lower Mississippi River states have similar processes for securing conservation easements. In Louisiana, a conservation easement is known by a different name: a grant of conservation servitude.

A number of landowner resources offered on this page. They include frequently asked questions, a downloadable landowner handbook, a step-by-step description of the easement process, a description of the financial benefits of conservation easements, an easement application, sample deeds (including a separate sample deed for Louisiana) and a list of recommended professionals. The MRT encourages potential easement donors to contact these and other professionals and choose the ones who best fit the donor’s situation.