by: Richard M. Malad, Attorney
For those that thought an easement was just something to allow you to drive through someone’s property or to allow utilities to go through your property, listen up! While an easement can do these things it can also do so much more. The basic definition of an easement is a property right that a landowner extends to another for a limited purpose, which could be just about anything.
One creative use of an easement is the preservation of natural resources and wildlife. If you, or a client, have a piece of land that is loved “as-is” and you want to keep it that way for your kids, grandkids, and the animals who call it home, a conservation easement may be something to consider.
A conservation easement is a recorded land donation to a 501(C) (3) trust that sets out a number of future-use restrictions to protect and conserve natural resources, including native wildlife. Restrictions can be just about anything you don’t want to happen to your property such as subdividing the parcel, creating roads, mining for various minerals, clear-cutting timber,or using the property for commercial purposes. The easement also sets out activities that you want to make sure you, and successor owners, are able to do such as allowing family and friends to use the area for hunting, timbering with an approved timber management plan, cutting firewood for personal use and gathering wild foodstuff.
It’s a win-win for those owners who want to keep their land from future changes. The donor may also be entitled to a tax benefit for their charitable contribution, which can be a significant value. The contribution is defined as the difference between the appraised value before the restrictions in the easement and the appraised value after the restrictions.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources states that Indiana has over 4.7 million acres of forestland of which, 87% is privately owned. In that forestland, there are over 57 species of animals who call that area home. Indiana has many organizations throughout the state that offer landowners and concerned individuals educational resources and opportunities to help preserve our forests and protect our wildlife.
If you are interested in learning more about conservation easements, contact me. I have personally donated a conservation easement and have represented other landowners through the conservation easement process.