Photo: Rob Gorrell

Conservation Easements

Conservation easements are one of the most flexible and effective means available to protect private property while providing tax relief. A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement that ensures that property will be managed according to the landowner’s wishes. Each individual agreement is unique to the special qualities of the land and the conservation goals of the landowner.

Property rights involve many components, including rights to manage resources, change use, subdivide or develop land. Under a conservation easement, a landowner voluntarily limits one or more of these rights. For example, a landowner donating a conservation easement could choose to limit the right to develop a property, but keep the rights to build a house, raise cattle and grow crops.

Often, landowners donate these easements. However, public funding sources can offer far more opportunities for significant land conservation. In 2005, the Texas Legislature created the Texas Farm and Ranch Lands Conservation Program, a purchase of development rights (PDR) program that is designed to pay property owners who volunteer to conserve their land. However, this program has never been funded and very little funding is currently available for conservation in Texas. Click here for more information on a 2009 effort by Rep. Charlie Geren and former Sen. Kip Averitt to fund the program and earn federal matching money that would help Texas landowners conserve.

Despite the lack of funding at the state level, cities and counties in central Texas including Austin, San Antonio, Hays County and Travis County have passed bond elections to generate public dollars to preserve natural areas and protect water supply. Contact HCA for more information about these opportunities.

Link to our issue page on Conservation Easements

The Hill Country Alliance has had success in hosting workshops to highlight financial and conservation tools available to rural landowners in fast-growing Hill Country counties. These workshops are designed to provide farmers, ranchers, and other landowners with effective tools and resources to help them address issues inherent in passing family land on to future generations.

On February 15, 2019 with the help of the Comal County Conservation Alliance, we hosted a landowner workshop covering a variety of topics related to conservation easements at the Anhalt Dance Hall in Spring Branch, TX. The presentations given at this workshop can be accessed below.

Presentations from 2/15/19 Workshop:

Daniel Oppenheimer, HCA – Hill Country Growth and Land Conservation

James Bradbury, PLLC – Conservation Easements in Texas

Margaret Menicucci, Braun & Gresham Attorneys at Law – Conservation Basics & Income and Estate Tax Benefits

Carrie Kasnicka, Guadalupe-Blanco River Trust – Land Trust 101

Shane Kiefer, CWB Plateau Land & Wildlife Management – Introduction to Wildlife Management Property Tax Valuation

Recent Conservation Easements News