A conservation easement is a set of voluntary, negotiated, legal deed restrictions between a landowner and the land trust. Conservation easements protect agricultural, scenic, historic and archaeological values, and wildlife habit by placing permanent restrictions on the future uses of the land. The restrictions are dependent on the conservation goals and tailored to the needs and desires of each landowner. The landowner retains fee title to the property and can sell, devise, or otherwise transfer title to the land, subject only to the terms of the conservation easement. Public access is not automatically granted unless the landowner is open to that option. The land trust is charged with monitoring the property to ensure that the conservation values are being protected and the terms of the conservation easement upheld.
Conservation easements can be donated by the landowner or purchased by the land trust. When donated, landowners can receive a tax deduction equal to the value lost by the recording of the conservation easement. When purchased, landowners receive cash equal to the value lost by the recording of the conservation easement.