We were asked the question: How many acres are under a “conservation easement” in Lake County? Answer: As of 2017 – 3,544.7
Here is a page from the Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District’s 2017 Annual Report: Conservation Easement brochure
What are conservation easements?:
A conservation easement is a restriction placed on a piece of property to reduce
usage of the resources (natural or man-made) associated with the parcel. The
easement is either voluntarily sold or donated by the landowner, and constitutes a
legally binding agreement that is usually permanent and theoretically protects land for
future generations. There is an annual property inspection by the grantee, stewardship
fees paid to the grantee by the landowner and the threat of a lawsuit against the
landowner if violations occur.
Land trusts, farm bureaus, soil & water conservation districts, sewer districts,
state departments of natural resources, townships and county health departments
are all entities that facilitate and become parties to conservation easements.
Land along water is often targeted. Federal and state budgets have money earmarked
for these entities to purchase property from private landowners, or to pay landowners
to give up many of their rights of land use through a conservation easement.
Conservation easements protect natural resources, wildlife habitat, farmland, and
open spaces from development. When the current landowners give up their use and
development rights, future owners are similarly limited. Typical limitations on
improvements are: no sub-dividing, no buildings, no roads, no property use changes
related to agriculture, no energy generation, no commercial recreation and only one or
two houses. The land is worth less without the development rights, therefore it’s market
value declines. This creates increased prices for other land in the area. When prices
are higher less people can afford to buy the unencumbered property. Less people can
afford to pay the increased property taxes.
Publicly-owned conservation easement property (e.g. parks) also generates no
property tax revenue and costs additional taxpayer money for maintenance.
In Ohio, there are no property taxes levied on conservation easements.
Farmland owners can also get income tax deductions for several years under a federal