Conservation Easements

Conservation Easements

Native prairies, wetlands and woodlands are some of the most important natural resources we can preserve for future generations. A conservation easement is a tool used by landowners to protect these lands. Nebraska's Conservation and Preservation Easement Act (LB 173) was introduced by Senator Jerome Warner, of Waverly, and adopted by the state legislature in 1981. LPSNRD holds Nebraska's first conservation easement, established by Walt and Virginia Bagley in December of 1982, on land they owned east of Lincoln, now called Prairie Pines. Today, the LPSNRD holds 19 conservation easements, over 1400 acres, throughout the district, maintaining each according to the wishes of the landowner who established the easement. All have been locally approved by the NRD and the appropriate city, village, or county zoning authority.

Types of Land Considered


Prairies


Forests


Wetlands


Habitat


Stream Corridors


Flood Storage

While any land can be designated in a conservation easement, they are usually reserved for unique areas with features such as natural prairies, forests, wetlands or saline wetlands. In partnership with the City of Lincoln, conservation easements are also being utilized to protect stream corridors and flood storage zones, in addition to habitat for wildlife

Establishing a Conservation Easement

Conservation easements in Nebraska are governed by state statute. The process for establishing a conservation easement agreement with a holding entity is structured so that the preferences of landowners are followed, while remaining within the local regulations.

1. Landowner develops interest in establishing a conservation easement

The process of establishing a conservation easements is initiated by the landowner. Throughout the development stage, approval is necessary, ensuring the conservation easement is established to specifications and desires of the landowner. Each conservation easement is unique to the land and situation. Landowners have the ability to develop specific restrictions, management plans, and designate particular sections of land to be part of the easement agreement.

Such easements enhance property and allow for activities like cattle grazing, farming, forestry, and wildlife habitat that are held in perpetuity. Through conservation easements the landowner retains actual ownership of the land, while the holding entity is responsible for ensuring the agreement is followed as specified. Even in the circumstance of the land being sold, it can only be used and maintained according to the conservation easement.

2. Identify entity to hold conservation easement

To proceed forward with creating a conservation easement, landowners must find an entity which is willing to hold the agreement in perpetuity. Any governmental body permitted to hold an interest in real property may hold a conservation easement (76-2,111). This includes Natural Resources Districts, Cities, counties, and US Fish and Wildlife. Certain charities and other organizations with an interest in protecting land may also hold conservation easements.

The landowner and the holding entity will establish a comprehensive plan for the land in accordance with the landowner’s preferences.

3. Approval by zoning authority

In accordance with the Nebraska statute (76-2,112), all conservation easements must be reviewed and approved by the local zoning jurisdiction of a city or village. If the property is not located inside the boundaries of a zoning boundary, the county board would become the reviewing party.

Landowners interested in protecting their land for future generations may contact us to find out more about conservation easements. LPSNRD can help you through the process of creating a conservation easement agreement and getting the necessary approvals.

"I love standing and listening to all of the birds, insects and wildlife that have made our land their home.  I find comfort in knowing that since our land is protected through the conservation easement program, this land will never be disturbed or disrupted from its natural state. This Tall Grass Prairie will continue to provide nutritious feed for the cattle that will graze it for years in perpetuity.""

Alice Sittler, Landowner