Land conservation is an action to permanently conserve the natural, scenic, agricultural, historical, forested or open space character or uses of real property. This can include water resources as well. There are no limitations on the type of land – it may be in dense urban settings, remote rural lands or anywhere in between. The essential element is that it must have one or more of these characteristics or uses.
Many landowners take steps to responsibly steward their land so that important resources are conserved. Sadly, their work can be undone by a subsequent owner or by condemnation by a public agency who wants to use the land for other purposes.
The term “land conservation” is commonly used to distinguish those specific actions that provide legal protections so that the resources are not damaged or lost to future actions. These legal protections will endure beyond any single landowner.
Land can be conserved in several different ways. The method used is determined by the conservation goals for the property, the landowner’s preferences, and available funding. The two most common methods is that the property is conveyed in its entirety (“fee title”) to a land trust or public agency, or a conservation easement is conveyed to a land trust or public agency. In California, the fee title or conservation easement is often sold so that the landowner receives funds, but fee title/easements can also be donated for significant tax benefits, or a there can be a mix of sale and donation (known as a “bargain sale”).