Since an easement is a voluntary agreement, the landowners retain ownership of the land and can tailor the easement to meet their specific goals and vision for the property, but in order to be considered a “qualified conservation contribution” and receive tax benefits, the easement must meet a standard of sufficient protection for the property.

Here are three options for compensation, either through tax benefits or dollars, when you consider placing your land in easement through donation or purchase.

A Donation: If your income is such that you pay taxes, consider an easement donation.  There are tax benefits at the local, state, and federal levels. More than 40 property owners in Clarke County — landowners who didn’t want to see the land they love lost or destroyed by development — have put their land in permanent conservation easement via donation through the Authority since its founding in late 2002. For more information on this option, read Steps to an Easement Donation.

A Purchase – Option A: If you have limited income and own a working farm of a minimum of 30 acres that possesses “prime soils” (based on criteria from the Natural Resource Conservation Service), you may qualify for an easement purchase with funds drawn from the Federal Farm and Ranchland Protection Program. The purchase offer is based on an appraisal that takes into account the location and size of the property, the number of Dwelling Unit Rights, or DURs, and the resource conservation values, such as the presence of streams or rivers, wildlife, and woodland. Recently, the county used Farm and Ranchland funds to purchase easements on three properties. The purchases ranged from $93,000 to retire one DUR on 43 acres to $715,000 to retire five DURs on 204 acres. For more information about this option, read Steps to an Easement Purchase with an Appraisal.

A Purchase – Option B: If you have building rights (DURs) to retire, the Authority may be willing to purchase them, for as much as $40,000 per DUR. The funding comes jointly from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and Clarke County.  As with the Purchase Option A, the price will be determined by a combination of income level and the conservation value of your land. In addition, you may qualify for state tax credits as well as federal and state tax deductions through this program. Eight easements have been recorded using this option, with property sizes ranging from 10 to 133 acres. The smallest payment was $25,000 for one DUR; the largest was $240,000 for six DURs. For more information on this option, read Steps to an Easement Purchase with a DUR Option.