Landowners interested in protecting natural areas have questions about easements, property rights, access and other issues. Answers to some of the most common questions are included below.
A conservation easement is a voluntary and permanent agreement between a landowner and Dakota County that specifies restrictions on development and land use. When a landowner voluntarily sells a conservation easement to Dakota County, the land remains in private ownership. However, landowners give up some rights to the property, including the right to develop the property. The easement is recorded with the property deed.
These easements are permanent and transfer to all future owners. Landowners need to disclose the existence and terms of the conservation easement when trying to sell the property.
Payment for easements
An independent appraiser will determine the value of the conservation easement by conducting two appraisals. The first appraisal is a traditional appraisal of the land as it would sell on the open market. The second is an appraisal of the land with the easement restrictions including loss of development rights.
The value of the conservation easement is the difference between the two appraisals. Since the property will remain in private ownership, Dakota County has set a maximum of $5,000 per acre of County funds that can be spent on a conservation easement on private land.
Public access not required
Public access is not a requirement of the program. However, if the property offers some level of public access such as fishing or hiking, it will receive higher priority in the selection process.
The land remains private property and must remain in its natural state. The owners retain most of their property rights. Conservation easements restrict the right to develop, to mine, and to build structures. The land must be managed in accordance with a Natural Resource Management Plan jointly developed by the landowner and Dakota County.
Annual site inspection
Dakota County will monitor the conservation easement by completing an annual site visit or contract with other agencies to monitor the easement on the County’s behalf.
Accepting less than fair market value
Landowners may wish to accept an offer for their property at less than the appraised fair market value for tax considerations, estate planning purposes, and to make their applications more competitive in the selection process.
Reasons to sell easement
Landowners have cited the following reasons for selling a conservation easement:
- Protecting natural areas for future generations
- Raising capital to expand operations
- Diversifying investments
- Transferring farm/estate without dividing or selling farm
- Taking cash out without selling title