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Protect Your Land

Over the last thirty years, rapid population growth and subsequent commercial and residential development has led to the loss of thousands of acres of agricultural lands, forests, wetlands, wildlife habitats and other natural resources in the Commonwealth, and has adversely affected many historical and cultural aspects of life here. Virginia’s population is projected to continue to grow, ultimately putting precious open space at further risk.

Do you own land that you want to protect from development? A conservation easement may be what you are looking for. No matter the size of your property, Land Trust of Virginia is here to guide you through the process and develop an easement that suits your family’s needs and will protect your land in perpetuity.

Download our Conservation Easement Packet here.

What is an Easement?

Decades ago communities across our country—while appreciating their local, state and federal efforts to protect land—came to understand that it was not enough as they watched valuable open spaces being lost to development. So, a quiet movement started in which private citizens started to form local land trusts, taking conservation of the land within their communities into their own hands, organizing and informing their neighbors of the important role of conservation easements. Today, there are approximately 45 land trusts in Virginia, most of which have a local geographic focus. 

A conservation easement is a private legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust, such as Land Trust of Virginia, that protects land and its conservation values permanently. Together the landowner and the land trust craft the legal easement document so that it protects the significant natural and cultural attributes of the land. The landowner still owns their property but the conservation easement is a permanent legal document that gets recorded in local land records, and remains in effect regardless of changes of ownership of the property.

Conservation easements are a strategy for protection and provide the opportunity for improvement of water quality, preservation of cultural and historic sites, protection of our plant and animal communities, sustaining working agricultural landscapes and natural areas, and enhancing our quality of life. 

Easement Donation Process

Donating a conservation easement is truly a charitable gift that provides benefits for the local community and future generations. Each conservation easement is unique in its contribution to a healthy, economically vibrant, Virginia landscape. Once a landowner has decided to explore donating an easement, it just takes a call to Land Trust of Virginia to get started.
Be sure to check out this general summary of the steps involved as a landowner!

Land Trust of Virginia has criteria for accepting land conservation easements based upon federal, state and local guidelines which require that each easement property has some “significant” conservation value of forests, wetlands, waterways, endangered species habitat, historic sites, battlefields, important farmland and/or scenic areas.  

At the invitation of a landowner, LTV will evaluate a property to determine whether it meets these criteria. Then, we work with landowners to tailor the easement to meet their future needs while protecting the conservation values. For example, an easement may cover portions of a property, an entire parcel, or allow an additional residence or agricultural building(s), and even allow division of the property depending on its size. 


The benefits of conservation easements are substantial. Loving the land and the sense of place it provides inspires many to make this donation, they want to protect what they love. In addition, the landowner is often entitled to significant tax benefits, which may include: 

  • Virginia Land Preservation Tax Credit Program 

  • Federal income tax deductions 

  • State and federal estate tax benefits 

  • Lower local property taxes 

After initiating the process with LTV, landowners should seek advice from their own tax and legal advisors regarding the financial and estate benefits of a conservation easement as well as engaging the services of a qualified conservation land appraiser. 


Once the easement is finalized and recorded, LTV begins their stewardship of the land. This means at least once a year, LTV staff will visit and connect with you, the landowner(s), and all future landowners (successor landowners) to ensure that the land is being maintained according to the design of the easement. 

  • How does LTV deal with landowner privacy?
    Each conservation easement deed is recorded with the local county clerk’s office, and is therefore a publicly accessible document. However, all other documentation related to the easement transaction, including financial documents, residential photography, and other sensitive documents are retained in LTV office files and are not shared with the public.
  • What does it mean that LTV is accredited?
    LTV became accredited by the Land Trust Alliance Accreditation Commission in 2009. At that time LTV was among the first 54 land trusts nationwide to earn accreditation. This is an approval that only 357 of the roughly 1,700 land trusts in the country have earned since the LTA established its accreditation program in 2007. Accreditation means that we operate with standards and practices that are among the best in the industry, including the maintenance of a robust stewardship fund and stewardship program that enable us to maintain and defend our easements—so you can rest assured that the natural and cultural resources entrusted to LTV will be protected in perpetuity.
  • Can I change the easement?
    Amendments to conservation easements are always possible. However, changes to easements are only permitted if they do not diminish the easement’s conservation value protections. The most common type of amendment involves a landowner of an easement property choosing to further reduce the property’s development potential by relinquishing a retained right of division. For example, if an easement written in the past permitted three total parcels (i.e., properties) on a 300-acre farm, an amendment could be written to limit the farm to only one total property, maintaining the property intact as a 300-acre farm in perpetuity. Limiting this future development potential would improve the property’s open-space protections, and would also likely generate additional tax benefits for the landowner, which makes it an attractive option. Amendments can also be written to clarify ambiguous or outdated language. Sometimes landowners choose to amend their easement specifically to strengthen conservation-specific restrictions, such as creation of additional water resource protections, or language targeted at protecting habitat for a particular species that may have recently taken residence on the property (i.e. bald eagle nesting areas).
  • Can I get rid of the easement?
    No. Conservation easements are permanent land interests vested in the easement holder (i.e., the land trust) for the purpose of protecting conservation values. The property interest donated to the land trust “travels with the land,” and is a permanent part of the title record.
  • What do I do when I want to develop my land?
    It’s always best to check in with the land trust prior to making major changes to the property. We can work with you to do a quick review of the easement provisions and make sure there are no conflicts with your construction plans and the easement restrictions.
  • Can I continue to farm on my land?
    Keeping land open and available for working farms is one of the main goals of LTV’s easement program. Broadly speaking, agriculture is always permitted on conservation easement properties. The easement itself will be specifically crafted, however, to require things such as best management practices and livestock stream-access limitations. One of the challenges of crafting the language of a conservation easement is to adequately and effectively protect conservation values while also permitting a large variety of uses on each individual property, now and in the future. LTV Stewardship staff will always be happy to answer questions and work with landowners to understand the terms and conditions of the easement and how different types of uses might impact the protected conservation values.
  • Why does LTV visit my property every year, and what happens during the visit?
    It is our responsibility to act as the permanent steward of the conservation value protections provided by the conservation easement. Visiting the property regularly is necessary to document natural and man-made changes, and it also provides us with an opportunity to develop positive and constructive relationships with our landowners. The visit entails a member of LTV stewardship staff walking through the property to document any changes, as well as meet with the landowner or property manager.

Landowner FAQs

Land Trust of Virginia Funds

Land Trust of Virginia has several funds available to help offset our fees associated with your easement donation. Please contact us if you feel your land could qualify for one of the following assistance programs.


Malcolm Baldwin Farmers Fund


Created in 2019 in honor of former LTV Board Member and life-long conservationist Malcolm Forbes Baldwin, this fund is used to underwrite fees for conservation easements on properties that are currently in active agricultural use.


Deborah Whittier Fitts Battlefield Stewardship Fund

Created in 2009, in honor of Deborah Whittier Fitts, the nation’s leading journalist covering Civil War battlefield preservation, this fund is used to underwrite fees on properties that have documented Civil War significance.

Is the Property you are Considering Protecting in Loudoun County?

If so, you might qualify for the Loudoun County Conservation Easement Assistance Program, which will provide up to $25,000 to assist with covering the costs of a conservation easement. The Program funding can cover: Attorney’s fees, Land appraisal and survey fees, Processing and document fees, and Stewardship costs. We will apply for you and help you through the process. Check out this link for more information.

In 2023, LTV partnered with seven other conservation organizations to produce our Rural Landowner Manual: A Resource Guide for the Northern Piedmont. The publication includes a list of experts, programs, and opportunities to assist landowners, as well as advice for how to navigate the complexities of rural property stewardship. Read it online by clicking the cover here or please reach out to pick up a hard copy from our office in Middleburg:


LTV is proud to partner with The Clifton Institute, a native plant and animal habitat restoration nonprofit located in Fauquier County, to provide advice on best management practices for your landscape.

Additional management practices are available on their website’s resource section.

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