Conservation easement holding entities, like the Delaware SWCD, have protected millions of acres of land all across the country.
The Delaware SWCD began its program in 2007, making it one of the first Conservation Districts in Ohio to hold conservation easements within subdivision development areas.
Ownership of a piece of property may best be described as a “bundle of rights.” These rights include the right to occupy, use, lease, sell, and develop the land. An easement involves the exchange of one or more of these rights from the landowner to someone who does not own the land. In the case of conservation easements held by the Delaware SWCD, the developer of the land deeds the easement to the SWCD. Easements have been used for years to provide governments, utilities, and extractive industries with certain rights regarding the land for specified purposes while the ownership of the land remains with the private property owner.
Today’s pressures from encroaching development and urban sprawl have sparked a growing concern over the loss of farmland, green space, and natural resources. The conservation easement is but one tool developers, landowners, government, and other conservation organizations can use to protect and preserve sensitive natural areas.
To qualify for a conservation easement, the land must possess some conservation or preservation value. Obvious examples would include land that harbors rare plant species or animal life, or land bordering an existing park or preserve. Less obvious examples might include a wooded ravine, land that provides wildlife access to a natural waterway, or a small wetland area that helps filter surface water.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can be done on a Conservation Easement?
- Property covered by a conservation easement is still privately-owned land, with the only restrictions on the land use being those agreed upon by the developer and easement holder at the time the subdivision is platted.
- Private property owners maintain all responsibilities of a landowner unless otherwise stipulated in the conservation easement deed agreement.
- Private property owners retain rights to privacy giving access only to the easement holder for inspection and enforcement purposes.
- Easements do not require private property owners to provide public access.
- Camping, fishing, hiking, and hunting are allowed with landowner permission (where local ordinances allow).
What are the Benefits to the Environment?
- Provide vegetated buffer zones that filter pollutants from runoff.
- Protect natural wetlands that store runoff and filter pollutants.
- Sustain wildlife habitat in and along ravines and stream channels.
- Provide passive recreational opportunities for property owners.
- Add and contribute to a community’s greenspace areas.
What are the Responsibilities of the Easement Holder?
- Establishing baseline easement documentation including enforceable deed language, maps, property descriptions, and baseline documentation of the property’s characteristics.
- Monitoring the use of the land on a regular basis via onsite visits to the property (to ensure that the easement restrictions are being upheld).
- Providing information and background data regarding the easement to property owners.
- Enforcing the restrictions of the easement through the legal system, if necessary.
- Maintaining property/easement related records.
Who can I contact for more information?
Matt Lanum, Resource Conservation Project Coordinator, (740) 368-1921, MLanum@co.delaware.oh.us
How to view Deeds of Conservation Easement
All Deeds of Conservation Easement are maintained as official documents by the Delaware County Recorder. To access and view the deeds, please visit their website.