Conservation Easements: Why and How?
According to the census data collected by the Land Trust Alliance (LTA), over the past two decades there has been a dramatic increase in the number of local, state, and regional land trusts operating in the United States, 1 and in the number of acres encumbered by conservation easements 2 held by such land trusts. 3 In 1980, only 431 local, state, and regional land trusts were operating in the United States, and they held conservation easements encumbering only 128,001 acres. 4 As of 2003, the number of local, state, and regional land trusts operating in the United States had jumped to 1,526, and those land trusts held conservation easements encumbering more than 5 million acres. 5
The dramatic growth in the number of land trusts and the use of conservation easements can be attributed to a variety of factors, including increasing development pressures; 6 a growing disillusionment with the government's ability to adequately protect land from development through regulatory measures; 7 the enactment in 49 states and the District of Columbia of legislation that removes common law impediments to the long-term validity of conservation easements (the “easement enabling statutes”); 8 and a variety of generous federal and state tax incentives offered to landowners who donate conservation easements. 9 In addition, conservation easement sale and donation transactions are popular with
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