A conservation easement is a voluntary contract between a landowner and a land trust, government agency, or qualified organization in which the owner places permanent restrictions on the future uses of some or all of their property to protect scenic, wildlife, historic, water, or agricultural resources.
Easements are tailored to meet the needs of each landowner. The landowner still owns the property and can use it, sell it, or leave it to heirs, but the restrictions of the easement stay with the land forever. Land trusts accept donated easements, which may offer tax benefits to landowners. Land trusts and public agencies also purchase easements from landowners through a variety of funding programs.
Conservation easements also can help restore and protect Sleepy Creek Watershed when landowners agree, as part of their easement, to implement management practices, like streamside forest buffers, to protect water quality.
Increasingly, easements are part of a long-term strategy to protect drinking waters supplies. Although Sleepy Creek itself does not supply public water, its waters flow into the Potomac River which supplies drinking water to millions of people downstream. SWCA is a partner in the Eastern Panhandle Safe Water Conservation Collaborative, a network of watershed groups, land trusts, and water utilities working to protect drinking water through conservation easements.
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