Conservation easements provide landowners with a legal means of protecting their properties' conservation values while maintaining ownership, retaining certain uses of their land and earning significant tax benefits. A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and an easement holder by which the landowner imposes permanent restrictions on the way the property is used. Conservation values are protected by extinguishing some property rights, such as mining and subdivision, while reinforcing rights such as passive recreation, agriculture, silviculture and some limited construction.
Conservation easements are generally held by governmental entities or specialized nonprofit organizations, known as land trusts. There are about 50 organizations in Georgia that are qualified to hold conservation easements. The holder of a conservation easement has both the right and responsibility to monitor and enforce easement terms in perpetuity. There are approximately 1,000 conservation easements today in Georgia. State agencies that hold conservation easements include the Department of Natural Resources and the Georgia Forestry Commission. You can learn more about the State's role in conservation easements by reviewing our Policy Guidance for Conservation Easements in Georgia (see below).
The State of Georgia encourages the use of perpetual conservation easements as a way to protect the significant conservation values of property in the state. The Georgia Conservation Tax Credit Program provides Conservation Tax Credits to donors of conservation easements. Easement donors may also claim a federal tax deduction. While most conservation easements in Georgia are donated, they can qualify for competitive grants and low interest loans as part of the GLCP.
Conservation covenants are similar, but distinct, mechanisms for conserving property. Covenants may be created through the Conservation Use Valuation Assessment (CUVA) programs operated by County tax assessors’ offices. Covenants remain in place for a period of ten years, and allow the landowner to claim a lower property tax burden during the covenant period. Contact your local tax assessor for more information on conservation covenants, or visit: https://etax.dor.ga.gov/PTD/cas/cuse/assmt.aspx.