Can Conservation Land Be Sold? | RenewMethod

As we observe the conversion of private lands becoming conservation lands more and more, it’s easy to feel confused as to whether the land can be sold or not.

So long as the conservation land is privately owned and isn’t public, the land can be sold given the property owner adheres to the guidelines and restrictions placed on the land.  Once a conservation easement has been declared, there are permanent limitations for future development. 

At face value, the prospect of buying conservation land can seem intimidating to many buyers given that the land they are purchasing comes with restrictions.  When dissecting the guidelines of a given property further, many buyers actually find that there are great benefits to buying conservation land.  To understand whether buying conservation land is the right choice for you, you should have a close look at how the restrictions apply in relation to your desired development.

The USDA and the Federal Wildlife Reserve back the private ownership and sale of conservation land and encourage more property owners with land that has significant environmental value to adopt this practice.  

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Limitations of Buying Conservation Land

Throughout the United States, we often see land that can be titled as being protected for conservation purposes.  These lands practically always have an environmental value associated with them and are being protected by the state or federal government.

What’s becoming a more common factor associated with private property is a similar conservation value being attached to land that is legally owned by private individuals but is still backed by the government.  This generally occurs when the previous or current owner of the land went through an appraisal process through the Energy and Environmental Affairs organization.

Once the appraisal process was completed successfully, the landowner has to sign off certain developmental rights over to the state government and adhere to restrictions on their property.  The owner is then classified as a donor of the land but can still live on and operate the land within the confined guidelines.

These private conservation lands can be purchased but anyone considering buying lands with this title should be well aware of all the limitations that come with owning conservation lands.

To prepare you with everything you need to know about buying a property that falls into this classification, we are going to highlight all the potential limitations that might occur on your land.

Development Limitations

The biggest drawback to purchasing conservation land is the limitations likely associated with development on the property.  The previous landowner had to agree to development limitations in order for the property to be considered conservation land, which will prevent them or any future owner from pursuing development projects that pose a threat to the local environment.

The most common types of development that will be hindered are:

Fencing

Since the land being reviewed is being preserved for sustainable and environmental benefits, oftentimes fencing is not allowed within much of the property lines or is prohibited altogether.

In addition, there may be certain specifications for the type of fencing that you are allowed to use on your land such as:

  • Fencing materials
  • Height
  • Distance from home

This can be extremely frustrating for homeowners that want to ensure a sense of home security.

Additional Buildings & Structures

When purchasing conservation land, you will find that often the property lines are quite more vast and spacious than a typical urbanized home. This is inviting for many homeowners who want to set up additional buildings and structures on their land.

Unfortunately, these lands are often bound to highly restrictive policies that limit where you can build and how much you can build on your property.  This was intended for the purpose of limiting development for real estate tycoons, as well as protecting habitat.

We see these limitations play out when homeowners try to build the following:

  • Secondary homes
  • Buildings
  • Sheds
  • Gardens/Farms

This is generally the factor that drives away many potential property owners who have ambitious ideas about development projects for the land that they’re considering.  

Dividing Property

With standard-owned properties, most landowners rightfully assume that they can practically do whatever they want with their property.  While the land you own when you buy conservation land is technically yours, there is still a lot you can’t do with it - like dividing property lines.

Typically, land that is classified as conservation land has only a designated and often a quite small plot of land that the owner actually has the freedom to manipulate.  The rest of the property is to remain untouched and undeveloped.

This means that if you own a multiple-acre plot of conservation land and want to divide the property to sell portions of it to other buyers, the prospect of achieving this is next to impossible.
This is also a measure taken by conservationists and state legislature to block real estate giants from coming in and taking advantage of environmentally valued lands.

Natural Alterations

The intention of the conservation land is to leave the natural surroundings undisturbed, which means that there may be huge limitations on what you can do with the surrounding environment.

Since the local environment you live in is probably abundant with plant and animal life, you may want to modify some of the greenery next to your home or throughout the property to mitigate the amount of wildlife entering the vicinity of your home or to simply change the natural aesthetic of your land.

This generally violates a number of the guidelines associated with conservation land, as the property was designated for the protection of the surrounding species.  

Hassles

As I’m sure you are beginning to see, owning conservation land is no cakewalk and comes with its fair share of hassles.

Adhering to a mountain of guidelines and restrictions is not the typical idea most homeowners have for their property, which leads many consumers on the market wary of committing to such a buy.  Making changes to the land is extremely challenging and comes with a huge amount of paperwork that generally needs to be approved and can be time-consuming.

In addition, there may be some misconceptions between the policies attached to the conservation land and the property owner’s idea of those policies.  This can result in a property owner building a structure or modifying a piece of land with an honest intention that violates a guideline or restriction, which can result in penalties and even legal action.

With that being said, you should be very well aware of all the restrictions associated with your land before purchasing so that you don’t end up being disappointed with any attachments you had for your preferred home environment.

Benefits of Buying Conservation Land

It goes without saying that buying conservation land is a bit more complicated than purchasing your standard home and while there are limitations to your property and what you can do to it, there is plenty to look forward to when owning land that falls under this classification.

Owners of conservation land can typically rejoice in the following:

Natural Beauty

When private lands have been converted to conservation lands, they were generally done to preserve the environmental values and qualities of the area.

One of the most common features associated with conservation lands is a natural beauty that surrounds them.  A property owner of this type of land generally has an abundance of wildlife, plants, and even forest all around them and can enjoy a sense of natural solitude from the urbanized and developed world.

In addition, conservation lands offer the potential for outdoor recreational activities such as:

  • Nature walks
  • Wildlife sightings
  • Trail cycling
  • Picnicking
  • Camping

Living on conservation land does come with a price, but for those who want to live closer to the outdoors, it’s a small price to pay to have the natural world be your front and backyard.

Cost Beneficial

A common occurrence with private properties that have been classified as conservation lands is that the dollar value of the price drops significantly.

This is due to the fact that development on the land has been prohibited to a large degree and the opportunity for real estate tycoons to make a fortune from the property dissipates.

This notion is particularly appealing to individuals that are on the market for a less costly home but cannot afford to do so in an urbanized area - making conservation land a refuge for anyone with a lower income.

About THE AUTHOR

James Parker

James Parker

James Parker has a Masters degree in Sustainability with a focus on land management, permaculture and regenerative agriculture. He also has experience managing sustainability projects, and is passionate about conservation and sustainability.

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