The land trust world commonly uses the term “perpetuity” when describing the length of time a conservation easement will be in place. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines perpetuity as the quality or state of being perpetual. Related synonyms include everlasting, forever, infinity, eternity. No matter how you say it, forever is a long time.
Landowners are a passionate group. They care deeply about their land and want to know its being protected forever. If the easement only lasted 100 years many would not be interested in this relatively short-term protection.
Tax laws mandate that a conservation easement must be enforceable in perpetuity in order for the landowner to be eligible for tax benefits. Funding agencies that invest in these easements require they be perpetual. If we fail to protect the perpetuity of the agricultural conservation easements we risk losing our accredited and nonprofit status.
So how is perpetuity achieved? Initially, it is achieved through extensive open and honest communication with the landowner(s) and their legal and financial advisors. Also, an agricultural conservation easement document must be well drafted and strictly adhere to the legal parameters which mandate “perpetuity”. Additionally, we work to inform our communities about the value of land conservation in perpetuity and how it will benefit them, their families and future generations.