An open-space easement is an interest in property that restricts how the property may be used in order to protect certain conservation values on the property. The easement need not permit public access to benefit the public, but to be accepted by VOF an easement must have significant public benefit.
The Public Benefit of an Open-Space Easement
Though most VOF easements do not require landowners to permit public access, protected properties do have significant benefit to the public, such as protection of water quality, retaining productive farm and timber land, and protecting scenic views enjoyed by travelers along public roads, rivers or from parks. It is this public benefit that helps qualify easements for federal and state tax benefits.
Conservation Values on Easement Properties
Conservation values to be protected by an open-space easement might include: productive agricultural or timberlands, scenic vistas, rare species, caves, unique geologic features, rivers or streams, wetlands, wildlife habitat and corridors, and/or historic resources (See Appendix for more information on specific resources).
Other conservation attributes of a property might include:
- inclusion in a private or governmental conservation program, plan, inventory or register, such as National Audubon Society’s “Important Bird Areas”, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s “Virginia Outdoors Plan”, The Nature Conservancy’s “Ecological Portfolios” or one of VOF’s ten “Special Project Areas”, or
- areas adjacent to other conservation lands such as: existing VOF or other conservation easements, designated scenic rivers or scenic roads, state or national parks or forests, wilderness areas, wildlife management areas, state natural area preserves, or historic battlefields or other historic properties.