Several options are available for landowners who wish to ensure the long-term protection of their properties. You, as the landowner, may want to ensure protection of a particular feature of your land without giving up ownership. In these cases, a conservation covenant is one of the most effective land preservation tools available to landowners.
A covenant is a voluntary, legal agreement between a landowner and a conservation organization where you as the landowner promise to protect the land in specific ways. The promises the landowner makes will be attached on title to the land forever, regardless of who owns the land. In return, the conservation organization agrees to monitor the covenant and ensure that the intentions and objectives of the covenant are being maintained.
What does this mean in practice? Suppose your property contains a small marsh that provides habitat for several endangered species. Since you cannot afford to donate your land for conservation purposes and you do not want to sell, you feel powerless to ensure the long-term protection of the marsh.
However, a conservation covenant will give you a number of options to protect your marsh. In the simplest case, you would likely agree to forbid development in the marsh area. Covenants are very flexible documents that can contain a number of provisions from limiting subdivision and development to committing to the removal of noxious weeds. Any terms that you and the land trust agree upon can be included in the covenant.
All of the promises you make in a covenant apply not only to you, but also to every future landowner. The terms outlined in a conservation covenant are decided by you as the landowner. The conservation organization works with you to ensure those terms are enforced, but does not determine what restrictions will be suitable for your property. (Click here to see some examples of covenant restrictions.) Each landowner’s situation is unique and their conservation needs will vary depending on many different factors.
Once you have created your covenant and all parties have signed it, it will be filed with the land title office and it would become a permanent part of the title of the property. The conservation organization is responsible for annual monitoring of your property. This means that once a year a representative will visit the landowner and walk around the property, making sure that none of the promises in the covenant have been broken.
The restrictions you include in a conservation covenant will be binding on yourself and all future landowners of the property. For more information about conservation covenants, please contact TLC. To view a sample covenant please click here