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 property’s size, the easement document’s complexity, 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.
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The Easement Process
These are the steps for the easement process:
- The landowner contacts Mississippi River Trust about a conservation easement. The landowner and Mississippi Trust meet to review the property and discuss the potential easement.
- The landowner contacts and chooses a recommended appraiser (the landowner may choose to use another appraiser, but it is strongly recommended you use one who is familiar with conservation easements.)
- The landowner contacts and chooses a recommended consultant (the landowner may choose to use another consultant, but you should use one who is familiar with conservation easements and baseline documentation reports.)
- The landowner contacts and chooses an attorney if desired. You should choose an attorney who is familiar with conservation easements; an attorney is not required unless the landowner chooses to have one.
- The consultant begins gathering data for the baseline documentation report.
- Mississippi River Trust develops a conservation easement document based on the rights to be donated by the landowner. A draft of this document is sent to the landowner for review and comment.
- A draft of the deed is sent to the appraiser by Mississippi River Trust so the appraiser can begin working. The draft is also sent to the landowner’s attorney for review and comment.
- The baseline documentation report is completed by the consultant, and the appraisal is completed by the appraiser. Final copies of these documents are sent to the landowner who forwards copies to the Mississippi River Trust.
- The final draft of the conservation easement document is completed, signed, and notarized by Mississippi River Trust and is sent to the landowner for signature and notarization.
- The landowner files the easement document in the appropriate county and sends certified copies to the appropriate state wildlife agency, the appropriate state attorney general’s office, and the Mississippi River Trust.