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Conservation Easements

What are conservation easements?

Conservation easements are legal agreements

in writing, through which landowners voluntarily limit how their land can be used with the goal of protecting its natural resources. These contracts, between two or more owners, are signed, notarized, and legally registered. Subsequent owners must comply with their provisions, unless they are terminated or modified by the original parties. 

What are the most important characteristics of conservation easements?

1. Legal: recorded in the land registry;
2. Voluntary: only established as and when wanted
3. Flexible: can be used to satisfy various needs and goals of the landowners.

Why are conservation easements important?


They are part of a larger plan to protect and preserve the natural beauty of Costa Rica. About 28% of the national territory is part of a system of protected lands owned by the government and other conservation entities. However, most of the land needed to assure future responsible development in Costa Rica is private. Conservation easements provide private landowners with flexible legal instruments to conserve their lands voluntarily and have become more and more popular in recent years.

Who can create a conservation easement?

The laws of Costa Rica requires that two properties be involved: (a) the property that accepts the restrictions on its use, and (b) another property that is benefited by the restrictions. For example, in the case of a conservation easement in Monteverde, land use restrictions were imposed on property owned by The Nature Conservancy, while these restrictions benefit the property owned by The Monteverde Reserve. The property on which the restrictions are placed (the Servient Estate) can belong to individuals or entities, including conservation non-government organizations or NGOs. It is common in Latin America for the property receiving the benefit of any restrictions (the Dominant Estate) to be an NGO. Both the owners of the restricted and benefited properties voluntarily agree to the conservation easement.

How long do conservation easements last?


If a conservation easement contract does not state that it is for a determined period of time, the easement is perpetual. This means it “stays with the land” upon sale or death of the owner. Because funds used to purchase land which is subjected to conservation easements are often donated, the donors want to be sure that the conservation easement is not terminated or modified in ways that are detrimental to the donors’ intent.

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