Land easements gain popularity in Hill Country

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THIS PORTION of Sandy Creek, near Enchanted Rock, is part of a land trust. —Contributed photo

Trust says more landowners put properties into protected status

There is a growing movement of landowners in the Hill Country who are concerned enough about encroachment on privately held land to put their property into permanent protection, according to the Hill Country Land Trust.

“Landowners are using the land conservation easement as a way to protect scenic views, historic use, ranching and farming use for themselves and future generations of their families,” said Katherine Peake, president.

According to the Land Trust Alliance, a national organization dedicated to the land conservation movement, the southwest part of the United States is showing the largest increase in easement growth with a 147 percent rate in the last decade, and protection by easements has increased fivefold since in the last decade.

Maine has the largest acreage under conservation easements of any state with 1,577,299 acres total and Texas currently has 800,000 acres under conservation easements. 

Land easements are a permanent deed restriction written between the property owner and the holder of the conservation easement, in most cases a non-profit land trust designated by the IRS to perform such a function, Peake said.

It is not a transfer of ownership, a grant of free access, or a restriction on any uses specifically reserved by the landowner.

Landowners can design the easement to suit their needs, and in many cases receive significant tax benefits when certain criteria are met.

“The Hill Country Land Trust wants to work with landowners as their partner in protecting the things they feel are important about their land,” Peake said. “We have assisted many landowners with our group of volunteers who have been pursuing this mission with passion since 1998.”

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