Have your questions answered here.
What is a conservation easement?
A conservation easement is a legally binding agreement entered into voluntarily and mutually between a landowner and Utah Open Lands, protecting the land from some or all future development in perpetuity. Utah law provides landowners with a choice of easements coinciding with the conservation resources in need of protection on the property. The forms of conservation easements include: agricultural, historical, ecological, public recreational, or scenic. A conservation easement may protect one or all of the aforementioned values. A conservation easement may be purchased by a conservation organization at its full fair market value, purchased at a fraction of its fair market value, or donated by the landowner to a qualifying conservation organization. Landowners retain their landowning rights as well as many others, including right to use and sell the land. The easement will only retain the rights necessary to protecting certain conservation values, while potentially providing the landowners with tax incentives.
Do I still own the land?
Yes. The property owner is not selling the land, but instead selling or donating certain rights associated with the property. Depending on the easement, there will be different rights that the landowner will agree to give up—often times being the right to develop. The easement holder, either a private organization or a public agency, will hold the right to enforce the agreed upon regulations.
Will the County or another entity condemn my land if the bond passes?
The preservation of open space is always based on a willing seller who enters into a conservation easement transaction willingly without the threat of eminent domain.
Can I sell my land?
Yes. However, the conservation easement is intended for conservation in perpetuity, meaning that the agreed upon easement will continue in effect on the property if the property is sold.
What happens if I stop farming?
Depending on the easement, agriculture is a conservation value that is often times maintained through an easement. If agriculture is one of the conservation values essential to the easement, the trust, through annual visits, must ensure that the values are being upheld.
Why should a farmer keep his land?
Protection of private land is essential in protecting properties with conservation values. Stewardship of the land and protection from development are essential in preserving the land that we love. There can be lower maintenance costs associated with easements and ownership rights remain in place for the landowner. There can be no pressure from external entities to develop the land. The landowner will be able to maintain agricultural traditions, benefit from tax incentives and provide an open space legacy beyond a lifetime.
Will my land now be open to the public?
Every easement is unique. It is up to the landowner and what they agree upon and what is deemed appropriate. Some easements will allow for public access, but others will not. Generally, if land is conserved for agricultural purposes, public access is not necessary. The entity entrusted with holding the conservation easement will maintain annual monitoring of the land to ensure the terms of the conservation easement remain in tact.
I don’t want the market value of my home to increase, will the bond increase it even more?
Market values in Wasatch County are on the rise even without significant open land preservation. What studies do show is that communities with protected open space weather economic downturns more stably. So while the bond won't necessarily increase market values, it will help to guard against market drops.
What are the benefits of Open Space Bond?
Environmental benefits of an Open Space Bond can include carbon sequestration, air and water quality improvement, wildlife habitat protection, historical and agricultural preservation and preservation of green space to promote recreation/tourism.
Does passing the bond save all of the open space residents want saved?
Unfortunately, there will never be enough funding to conserve all of the lands worthy of protecting, but the bond will go a long way to leveraging funding from other sources. Finally, easements are able to include all of the desired land, but the land being conserved must be able to meet a set of criteria and include one or more conservation values:
- Open space, including farmland and forest land, that is either preserved for the scenic enjoyment of the general public or protected pursuant to clearly delineated federal, state or local governmental conservation policy and that will yield a significant public benefit;
- Historically important land areas
- Archeological or cultural aspects
- Natural resource protection
- Relatively natural habitat for fish, wildlife, plants or similar ecosystem
- Maintain or enhance air or water quality
- Availability for agricultural, forest, recreational or open-space use
- Outdoor recreational or educational use by the general public