Conservation Easements

Facts about conservation easements in Nebraska.

Western Meadowlark. Photo: Evan Barrientos/Audubon

What are Conservation Easements?

Conservation and agricultural land easements are a voluntary, free-market, incentive-based approach to the permanent conservation of natural, agricultural, and historical resources on private land. With a conservation and agricultural land easement, the owner voluntarily restricts future uses of their land (like development) and relies on the organization to monitor the land and enforce the easement's provisions if necessary.

According to state statute 76-2,111, easements have the purpose of “retaining or protecting the property in its natural, scenic, or open condition, assuring its availability for agricultural, horticultural, forest, recreational, wildlife habitat or open space for use, protecting air quality, water quality, or other natural resources, or for such other conservation purpose.”

How much land is under conservation easements?

Currently, less than 1%, or specifically 0.35% of Nebraska is under a conservation and agricultural land easement. On average, Nebraska only adds roughly 5000 acres of conservation and agricultural land easement land per year at a rate of only 0.0001% per year of Nebraska’s total acres.

Benefits for Private Landowners
Conservation Easements

Benefits to Private Landowners

What are the benefits of conservation easements for private landowners?

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Benefits for the General Public
Conservation Easements

Benefits for the General Public

The benefits of easements are not limited to just landowners

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Easements Aren't for Everyone
Conservation Easements

Easements Aren't for Everyone

Though the benefits far outweigh the negatives, it's important to note a few drawbacks to easements

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Should landowners have the right to make permanent decisions about their land?

  • Landowners make “forever” decisions all the time regarding their land.
  • One of the most basic of property rights is the right of a landowner to determine the future of their land.
  • If a landowner wants to sell their farm for a shopping mall, that is their right even though it is a permanent decision. If they subdivide a ranch into a housing development or ranchettes, it will never be a ranch again. A conservation and agricultural land easement is the flip side of this same property right, used by people who want to make a forever decision to conserve natural resources, historic sites, and agriculturally productive land.

Where does the money for easements come from? 

Many conservation and agricultural land easement projects are made possible by federal funding that is available to land trusts that purchase perpetual easements. Unfortunately, this federal cost-share is limited to 50% to 75% and many in agriculture cannot afford to donate the remainder. In Nebraska, the Nebraska Environmental Trust has been able to provide non-federal matching funds through competitive grants which level the playing field for interested landowners.

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