What Does It Mean When A Property Has A Conservation Easement?
To protect natural, historic and cultural resources, some landowners in New York State choose to voluntarily limit how they use their property.
Conservation easements are a legal agreement between a landowner and the state that establishes how the land will be used and prohibits certain kinds of development. In exchange for these restrictions on use of their property, landowners can receive tax benefits.
New York State offers conservation easements as part of its Green Acres Program; about 75 percent of the active parcels across the state have conservation easements.
Most landowners choose to use this tool to protect their land from development and agriculture, but some choose to limit the uses of their property because they believe those uses are incompatible with their conservation mission or interest.
When a landowner makes a decision to provide that their property not be used in a certain way—say, for residential development—the state has an interest in protecting that land from further degradation and having no reason to support it financially.
What Are The Benefits Of A Conservation Easement?
Conservation easements are voluntary agreements between a landowner and the state.
Landowners can receive potential financial benefits as compensation for limiting certain uses on their property such as agriculture or residential development.
The state also has the power to protect lands perpetually by prohibiting future owners from destroying conservation values.
New York State’s Green Acres Program offers three different kinds of incentives to landowners who provide conservation easements:
- Tax benefits
- Cost-share funds (when available)
- Farmland preservation credits (FPCs)
What Is An Example Of A Prescriptive Easement?
An example of a prescriptive easement is one that prohibits future owners from building on the property; it’s called a prescriptive easement because the right to build has been established by prescription, or long-standing use.
In this case, the state bestows a prescriptive easement on land it does not own with the intent to pass it down to future owners.
However, in an unreasonably restrictive way, such as with a condition that prohibits the future owner from building out a portion of his land e.g. “the southern portion of the property shall never be developed.”
What Is The Difference Between A Private Road And An Easement?
Private road is a road owned by a private landowner; an easement is a right of way on private land.
Easements are often designated to permit public access, such as a right-of-way across undeveloped land to access a public trail. They are sometimes also designated to permit access to a private road through undeveloped land e.g. a private road that needs to be used by the public but is not publicly owned.
The key distinction between public roads and easements is that public roads are publicly controlled, whereas easements are owned privately.
How Much Is My Conservation Easement Worth?
- No-net cost easement: the state pays you nothing when you receive a conservation easement;
- Full-cost easement: the state pays you money;
- Partial-cost easement: the state pays you part of the cost of your conservation easement. Conservation Easements Incentive Fund (CEIF) has a map showing which counties offer full, partial and no-net cost easements.
If a county has full or partial-cost programs, it will be colored green; if no-net cost, it will be colored red.
- Net present value: This is the value of your property today multiplied by the amount of money it will be worth in future years, discounted for taxes and interest. You can also use this analysis to figure out other things (the value of your purchase price, or use of professional services).
This method is most appropriate for evaluating a single property that has no real estate tax liability and no real estate transfer tax impact.
What Is An Example Of An Easement Appurtenant?
An appurtenant easement is one that the state purchases from a landowner to preserve wildlife habitat on their property. Such an easement goes with the lots and parcels it was created to protect, so it’s impossible for future owners to sell the lots without also selling their interest in the easement.
however, the state does have the power to remove or modify appurtenant easements; for example, if the state wants to sell, but does not want it to be done through an easement sale; or if it knows there is a problem with an easement, and wants to modify it without changing the terms of transfer.
Another example of an appurtenant easement is one that the state purchases from a landowner for the preservation of wetlands on their property.
How Does A Prescriptive Easement Work?
A prescriptive easement is one that has been established by long-standing use; in other words, it’s long been used in a certain way, and cannot be changed without disrupting the use.
The right to do something has been established by longstanding use, e.g. if a landowner uses his property for agriculture purposes, but his neighbor creates a fire break through the middle of his property and derelict trucks begin to collect on his property, this is not considered prescription.
However, if his neighbor uses the fire break to access her property and years later brings in a fence that bisects the easement this is considered prescriptive.
Prescriptive easements can be both negative and positive;
Meaning they can be used to prohibit certain activities such as building or parking a car – negative or to require certain activities—such as mowing a lawn – positive.
What Are The Tax Benefits Of A Conservation Easement?
The tax benefits vary depending on the type of easement that is purchased.
For example, if you have a partial-cost easement, there will be no tax benefit. Some easements provide limited benefits; some provide more substantial benefits. The amount of benefit depends on the use and cost of your property as well as its taxable value.
The local municipality has various tax benefits which are available in your area, or check with the County Conservation District Office for info about specific counties in upstate New York; some counties have bigger tax benefits than the statewide average. More info at:
The New York State Conservation Tax Relief Program (CTRP) is a tax incentive program available to both land owners and not-for-profit organizations. CTRP is a grant that can be used in conjunction with an easement transaction to assist with some ownership fees.
What Are The Types Of Easement?
A conservation easement can be used to protect open space, agricultural land, and historical resources in New York.
- The state purchases full-cost conservation easements from landowners to help retain the state’s natural resources. In New York State, the Conservation Easement Program (CEP) was established in 1994 by Executive Order No. 56 to preserve property of historic or aesthetic value from destruction or development that would adversely impact its historic integrity.
- An agricultural easement is one that the state purchases from a farmer to preserve farmland;
- A partial-cost easement (CP) is one that the state purchases from a landowner at less than full-cost;
- A no-net cost easement (NC) is one that the state purchases from a landowner for no-cost;
- An appurtenant easement is one that the state purchases from a landowner to protect land use on their property;
- A prescriptive easement is one that has been established by long-standing use; in other words, it’s long been used in a certain way, and cannot be changed without disrupting the use.
- A severable conservation easement is one that the state purchases from a landowner to protect land use on their property;
- A conservation easement (CE) is one that the state purchases from a landowner to protect open space, agricultural land, and historical resources in New York;
- A restriction is a type of easement that does not convey with title to the real property it affects; instead, it remains with the parcel of real property;
How Do You Prove A Prescriptive Easement?
Prescriptive easements need to be open and notorious in order to bind the owner of the land being used, and they must be used hostilely by the user of the land in order to be binding on that owner.
If you are establishing a prescriptive easement, you must file an affidavit from the person establishing the easement, and then file it with the County Conservation District Office for approval;
If approved, a reference number will be assigned and recorded at the County Clerk’s office; then, if a neighbor contests the validity of the prescriptive easement, you will need to file for a court order to confirm your right to use that easement.
To establish a prescriptive easement, you must be the landowner of record. Then, as stated above, you must file an affidavit from the person establishing the easement; this should have four paragraphs:
- Location and type of property (i.e., open space, forested land, or agricultural land). If necessary, describe the parcel number and lot number;
- Reason for establishing an easement;
- Name and signature of the person who is making the affidavit;
- Date of affidavit.