Conservation Easement

What is a Land Trust?

A land trust is a non-governmental public charity (501c3 nonprofit) whose primary purpose is to actively work to conserve land by aquiring and managing land or through conservation easements.In the case of the Pee Dee Land Trust (PDLT), our mission defines natural, agricultural, and historic land resources as appropriate for conservation.

As a public charity, PDLT represents the taxpayers. Our primary source of funding is individual members and donors – we are not dependent on government funding for operations. PDLT can accept tax-deductible donations in the form of land and interests in land, or monetary gifts. The donor may be eligible for tax benefits, and the public enjoys the benefits of protected land. It’s truly a win-win situation.

The land trust has a toolbox full of options to help landowners who are interested in conservation. Some are obvious--like buying land or accepting donations of land. Other tools include providing funds, or helping with negotiations for other groups involved in land protection. A land trust can help find and encourage conservation buyers.

PDLT focuses primarily on working with private landowners to plan their land legacy through a conservation easement (through purchase or donation).  The conservation easement outlines the allowed uses and defines the development rights a landowner agrees to give up in perpeturity, even though it remains in private ownership. 

Because land protection is done strictly on a voluntary basis by the landowner, the land trust's conservation efforts are non-regulatory, and do not advocate for various environmental causes. At its core, Pee Dee Land Trust is about preserving the special relationship Pee Dee residents have with their land.

Pee Dee Land Trust has reprinted an updated copy of its Landowner Easement Guide thanks to the support of Duke Energy. This valuable resource is fully updated with 2020 tax guidelines on the state and federal level. Download a copy of our Guide to Land Protection and Conservation Easements

What is a Conservation Easement?

A “Conservation Easement” or a “Conservation Agreement” is an umbrella term for any sort of easement document between a landowner and a land trust that protects natural or historical areas, farms, or forestland. It may also protect scenic vistas, water quality, wildlife habitat, or some outdoor recreation locations.

It is the legal agreement between a landowner and a designated nonprofit that restricts certain uses on a piece of property in order to protect specific conservation values identified in the easement. It transfers certain legal rights in the property itself so that future sale or transfer of the property takes the easement along with it. The landowner retains ownership of the property, but the land trust is the keeper of those specifically designated property rights and agrees to enforce the terms of the easement over time. Typically, these are voluntary but permanent.

Most conservation easements do not convey public access but they may if the landowner wishes. Although easements are designed to protect land against inappropriate development, they do not usually protect a property against condemnation by governmental or other authorized entities.  In addition, PDLT is not an advocacy organization, but does have a vested interest in lands on which it holds conservation easements. Because of that, PDLT will act to preserve the conservation values of the easement. 
Easements can be highly flexible and tailored neatly to a particular piece of property and the particular needs of the owner within the conservation mission of PDLT.

Conservation easements appeal to private property owners who understand that the quality of life of our region is intertwined with the Pee Dee’s history and our unspoiled natural resources, rivers, swamps, and rich soils. As landowners recognize the importance of a property’s features or location and the difficulty of holding onto family land in the face of rising land values and taxes, conservation easements become a more attractive option.  Easements enable landowners to make decisions about the future of their special places and not leave the fate of their property up to changing government policies and market forces.  An easement can reduce the potential for dispute among heirs by taking some options off the table, such as development or fragmentation of a farm, thus leaving a legacy for their descendents and all people who love the land.
The donation of  an easement may provide significant financial benefits to the landowner/ donor. These financial benefits can help keep a particular piece of property intact and productive for farming, forestry, or wildlife habitat uses where estate tax expenses might otherwise force sale and development.

By donating an easement in perpetuity, the landowner guarantees that his or her property will be protected in the future no matter who owns the property. It does not hinder the ability to sell or transfer it to others, though it does, by design, reduce the appraised property value to varying degrees.

About Conservation

In the Pee Dee Watershed, people love the land. Our culture is interconnected with the waters we fish and swim, the forests we hunt, and the farms and fields where we work and play. Our history has been shaped by this relationship, and our understanding of it can affect and improve our future.

We realize that once special places are gone, they’re gone. The loss of natural and historical resources has a profound impact on an area’s community, as well as on its ecology. Once changed, the land’s deeply intertwined role in a community cannot be reclaimed. The land that ties us to our history and links us to our future will be gone if we do not take purposeful action to conserve the places that make us who we are. As PDLT member and easement donor Steve Jones says, “land conservation keeps the South southern.”

Pee Dee Land Trust works diligently to preserve and grow the unique relationship between the people and the land. We strive to protect the Pee Dee’s special places so that they will be available for generations to come.


Land Protection Guide

Download a copy of our Guide to Land Protection and Conservation Easements.


Links to Conservation Easement Resources:

Land Trust Alliance

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SC Conservation Bank

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SC Land Trust Network

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Maps of all Pee Dee Watersheds

Links to Partner Organizations and Additional Resources:

American Rivers

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Belle Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology and Forest Science

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Belle W. Baruch Institute for Marine and Coastal Sciences

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Carolina Farm Stewardship Association

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Clemson Extension

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Ducks Unlimited

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Forestry Association of SC

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The Nature Conservancy

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SC Department of Agriculture

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SC Department of Natural Resources

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SC Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism

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SC State Forestry Commission

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SC Farm Bureau

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SC Association of Naturalists

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Tax Information for Timber Owners

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US Fish & Wildlife Service

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US Geological Survey Stream Flows for Great Pee Dee

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Contact Us:


448 W. Cheves St.
Florence, SC 29501

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