Conservation Easement Stewardship Program - Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is a conservation easement?
. A conservation easement is a land preservation agreement between a landowner and a governmental or nonprofit conservation organization that places permanent limits on the future development of a property in order to protect the conservation values of the land. The easement may also specifically protect natural, scenic or historic features of the property.
Q. Who manages conservation easements?
. Similar to public agencies that conserve land, there are many private, nonprofit conservation organizations that do so. Each typically serves a particular region of the state and/or exists for a particular purpose, such as habitat protection or historical preservation. Organizations focusing mainly on land protection are typically called land trusts or conservancies.
Nonprofit organizations in Virginia qualified to accept land for protection are defined (pursuant to the Virginia Conservation Easement Act, §§ 10.1-1009 through 10.1-1016
, as being a charitable corporation, charitable association, or charitable trust that has been declared exempt from taxation pursuant to 26 U.S.C.A. § 501 (c) (3) and the primary purposes or powers of which include:
- retaining or protecting the natural or open-space values of real property;
- assuring the availability of real property for agricultural, forestal, recreational, or open-space use;
- protecting natural resources;
- maintaining or enhancing air or water quality; or
- preserving the historic, architectural or archaeological aspects of real property.
These qualified land conservation organizations are defined as "holders" in the act, essentially meaning they are eligible to acquire and hold a conservation easement by gift, purchase, devise or bequest. These groups must have had a principal office in the Commonwealth for at least five years.
Until such a group meets these requirements, it may co-hold a conservation easement with another holder that meets the requirements.
In addition to holding easements, many land trusts and conservancies buy or are given land. And there are many conservation organizations that do not actually hold easements or acquire land. They work instead to educate and promote use of the various land conservation tools.
Loudoun County has partnered with many of these organizations in the past to accept or acquire easements. Organizations that hold easements are required by the terms of the easements to monitor them for any changes that might be prohibited by the easements and affect the values, such as habitat or historic resource protection, for which they were granted. Loudoun has established a stewardship program to assist property owners in meeting their obligations.
Q. How can I confirm that there is an easement on my property?
A. If your property is subject to a conservation easement, a deed of easement will be recorded in the land records. If you had a title search performed when you purchased your property, it may identify such an easement and include an instrument number or deed book reference. If you need assistance researching the land records, please contact the Loudoun County Clerk of the Circuit Court, Recordation Services Division
You may also find information via the following:
- The Loudoun County Parcel Assessment Database record for your property should indicate an easement under Parcel/State Use Class.
- Your yearly property assessment should note that you have an easement – look for the code “POSE” (permanent open space easement).
- Loudoun County’s online mapping system, WebLogis, includes a data layer of the open space easements – it’s under the tab marked “Districts”. You can also use WebLogis to look up your Parcel Identification Number (PIN). Please note that while we’ve worked to include all easements in this GIS data layer, it is a work in progress. Again, if you have a conservation easement on your property, this will be in a deed recorded in the land records.
If you’re unable to find any information via these means, please feel free to contact our public information counter at 703-771-5778 or by email
Q. What is the easement stewardship monitoring program and what does it involve?
When the conservation easement agreement was signed, both the easement holder(s) and the property owner agreed to certain terms in order to assure the property remains protected. The monitoring visit is intended to document any changes that have occurred since the easement was signed and to answer any questions the property owner might have.
A staff person from Loudoun County will contact you by letter, phone, or email in order to arrange a time to visit that is convenient for all involved. Ideally, we would like to visit the property with the land owner present. During the visit, we will note changes that have occurred, take photographs, and sketch a map of any additions that have been added to the property (we may use a GPS unit to make this task a little easier). After the visit, we will write a report for our files, which will also be provided to the landowner, along with copies of the photographs.
This program is a work in progress.
Q. Who do I contact if I’m interested in donating an easement?
There are many land conservation organizations in Virginia. The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation maintains a list here
. Who can I contact for more information?
. Office of Mapping and Geographic Information
1 Harrison St. S.E.
2nd Floor, Mailstop #65
Leesburg, VA 20175
Monday - Friday
8:00 am - 4:30 pm