Easements and Other Protection Programs

Easements are agreements regarding certain property rights that landowners can sell or donate to other parties. Easements may remain with the property in perpetuity or may be a right that is extinguished at some future time. 

Landowners generally expect to purchase a property with all rights intact, however it is not uncommon for a property to have timber and mineral rights reserved for a third party. Right-of-way or well-protection zones are typical forms of easement. Some deed easements may cover the siting of a secondary or back-up septic system or an unextinguished right to graze livestock. The State of Vermont has the flowage rights on some properties near water impoundments in the state. That means that during a flood event, these properties are flooded to reduce pressure on a dam or other structures. Check your deed for any reserved rights on your land.

The ability to develop a property is also a right, and this right can be reserved by or for another party. Non-profit groups interested in land conservation may purchase development rights often through an easement. Considerations to employ certain types of forest management and allow access to recreation are also rights that are often purchased or reserved.

An easement may require some form of management, such as prescribed buffers or leave-tree numbers.

Easements are often purchased by government programs to protect forest values, public access, or wildlife habitat.

The prices paid by easements are determined by approved real estate appraisal methods. Most real estate attorneys can give you information on how appraisals for easements are conducted. 

Organizations that make use of easements include land trusts, conservation groups, and federal and state governments.

In Vermont, the federal Forest Legacy Program makes extensive use of easements to protect large forest parcels from fragmentation.

For landowners not comfortable with introducing an easement, other options for land protection are available, such as long-term leases with a conservation group or creating legal restrictions within a deed.  Consult with an attorney familiar with estate planning and real estate law for more information. See also Tree Farmer Bulletin: The Many Benefits of Conservation Easements.