Landowner Resources

A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement that allows a landowner to limit the type or amount of development on their property while retaining private ownership of the land.

Sierra Foothill Conservancy accepts easements with the understanding that we must enforce its terms in perpetuity. Landowners grant conservation easements because they want to conserve their property from unwanted development while retaining ownership.

Many of our partnering landowners and their families have lived on the land for generations. They understand how to work with the land and wish to conserve it.

By granting a conservation easement, a landowner can assure that the property will be permanently conserved, regardless of who owns the land in the future.

There are several strategies to fund conservation easements. SFC accepts donated conservation easements, which have a value determined by an appraisal. Landowners who donate a conservation easement are eligible for significant tax benefits. SFC also works to fund conservation easements through grants and other funding mechanisms. If a landowner agrees to a bargain sale of their conservation easement, the landowner benefits with payment and a tax deduction. All of our easements are valued by a qualified appraiser, and evaluated for their conservation benefits. 

Protecting agricultural and rangeland through conservation easements helps to maintain the viability of our region’s land-based economy. The foothill economy depends on the land being a productive source of income for much of our community. Easements protect habitat and water resources for the entire region, as well as a historical connection to an important way of life for many local ranchers. Conservation easements are becoming a popular solution to the pressures of land development as people learn about them and as more land trusts develop across the country.

SFC works with each landowner to create an easement unique to the property and the landowners’ goals. A few landowners generously allow SFC to host hikes and classes on their property, but generally there is no public access to SFC’s conservation easements as they are privately owned. SFC also works with landowners to develop sustainable grazing and management plans that benefit the habitat by reducing invasive grasses and increasing native plants.

Donating a Conservation Easement

Donating a conservation easement on your property is an effective way to conserve your land and community.

What is a Conservation Easement?  Conservation easements restrict development and conserve the land in its natural state in perpetuity. They allow landowners to continue managing their property, while protecting it from the development and other pressures.

What are the benefits of donating a conservation easement?  Donors ensure that the land continues as range, forest, and wildlife habitat forever, protecting water quality and scenic views. Conservation easements support our local economy by keeping more land in rangeland or producing forests. Easements are often donated out of a love of the land and a desire for protection in perpetuity, in addition to significant tax advantages.  Many easement donors realize federal and state tax savings. The regular tax incentive of 30% AGI (adjusted gross income) over 6 years begins in 2014. Consult your tax advisor about the tax benefits of donating an easement.

What are the benefits to the public?  As easements are often on working landscapes such as ranches or forests, supporting these properties contributes to local and agricultural economies. Conservation easements also conserve a community’s scenery, natural resources, wildlife habitat, and quality of life by restricting development and maintaining the land in its natural state in perpetuity.

What rights does SFC receive with the conservation easement?  As the easement holder, Sierra Foothill Conservacy visits and monitors the property annually to ensure the terms of the easement are being upheld. The visits are always scheduled with the cooperation of the landowner. Our stewardship staff is always available for questions from our partnering landowners.

Sierra Foothill Conservancy – or any other group – does not have the right to manage or use the land or allow public access, unless specifically agreed to by the landowner under the terms of the easement.

How is the property and the easement valued?  Each of our conservation easements, whether donated or funded, are valued by a certified appraisal. The value of a conservation easement is the difference between the appraised value of the land without any restrictions and the appraised value of the land after the easement restrictions have been recorded.

How long does it take?  Donated easements are typically completed more quickly than grant-funded easements. Each project is unique but straightforward donated easements can be completed within several months.

How do I find out more?  For more information contact one of our Conservation Project Managers (Lauren or Melissa) at 209.742.5556 or sfc@sierrafoothill.org.

Sierra Foothill Conservancy partners with landowners to protect their ranches, farms, and forests from unwanted development and other pressures. SFC and landowners work together to realize both SFC and the landowners’ goals. Conservation easements protect these beautiful lands so they can continue to be utilized by their owners’ and their families. The land-based economy that has supported our foothill communities for years must be protected, and easements allow ranching, forestry, and farming to continue sustainably. Easements also protect the habitat, water resources, and viewshed that large properties provide to the region. SFC is fortunate to work with people who care about the land as much as we do, and we continue to learn from our partnering landowners.

SFC currently holds 16,721 acres in conservation easements across all four of the counties we work in. For more information, please see Resources for Landowners, or contact our Conservation Director.

Resources for Landowners: Conserving the Places We Love

There are many options for landowners, and SFC works hard to be an excellent resource for people committed to protecting their land and heritage. Conservation Easements ensure your land and resources will remain undeveloped for perputity while allowing you to continue to own and manage your property. Land is an important legacy you can pass on intact to your children and grandchildren, and SFC hopes to help you fully protect it.

This page will continue to expand as we compile more resource for landowners. Please feel free to contact us with easement and conservation questions at (209) 742-5556 or Email us.

Important Links for Landowners:

Sierra Foothill Conservancy
What is a Conservation Easement? (pdf)
SFC Land Project Flowchart (pdf)

Land Trust Alliance
Reasons to Conserve
Economic Benefits of Land Conservation