Conservation Easements

Dean Saunders' life's work, first in the Florida legislature and now in real estate, has been closely tied to conserving Florida's landscape through work in the legislative process and guidance to landowners for preserving their land.

What is a Conservation Easement in Florida?

A conservation easement is a legally binding agreement with a government agency or nonprofit land trust that rewards landowners who choose to limit development on their land. These easements are custom created to meet the personal and financial needs of the landowner while allowing the landowner to retain private ownership. This allows the landowner to identify not only what portions of the land fall under the easement, but also what rights they wish to retain, limit, or surrender. The goal of these easements being to preserve and protect ecological, historic, or scenic resources.

Landowner Rights

Upon purchasing land, the landowner also purchases a set of rights called “fee title”. Among other things, these rights include the right to develop and the right to minerals and water.

If the landowner should choose, they are able to sell these rights while still maintaining private ownership of the land. Generally, this is known as a “less-than-fee” interest. Conservation easements are a form of these “less-than-fee” interests and are a more commonly used term.

When the landowner chooses to relinquish some of these rights, either by donation or sale, they are compensated. The more land the landowner agrees to and the more rights they surrender, the more compensation they receive. Compensation can be collected in the form of tax benefits, direct dollars, or both.

Protect Your Land

As tourism and population skyrocket in Florida, land is becoming more valuable than ever. Through conservation easements, landowners who choose to preserve the beauty and function of their land will profit from the increased value. These easements also serve to alleviate worries of future estate taxes that may force the landowner’s heir to sell the land versus keeping it in the family.

When choosing to sell conservation easements, the landowner retains ownership of the property and is compensated for the easement. On the other side, the government receives assurance that the valuable land will be protected from future development.

Today, not only is the number of conservation easements being bought by the federal, state, and local governments growing, but the demand from conservation organizations is too.

Selling your land as a Florida conservation easement is recommended to real estate clients when the property has qualified features, meets guidelines, and the landowner desires a way to keep the property from major development for generations to come.


Dean Saunders, ALC, CCIM

Founder, Managing Director & Senior Advisor
As an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) and a member of the Florida Legislature from 1992 to 1996, Dean spearheaded the action to establish the Green Swamp Land Authority. As a result of his efforts, the very first Florida state agency was created to purchase development rights from landowners. His work was instrumental in the successful passing of the law requiring Florida state agencies to purchase a specific number of conservation easements each and every year. Selling your land as a Florida conservation easement is recommended to real estate clients when the property has the qualified features, meets guidelines, and the landowner desires a way to keep the property from major development for generations to come.
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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Typical conservation easements establish the criteria of what the easement would be preserving and by which the property would qualify for an easement. These easements protect against commercial or residential development by specifying the extent of development allowed on the property. Rural uses such as farming, forestry, and wildlife management are also specified within the easement.

  • An easement can be constructed to be flexible with the landowner’s personal and financial goals. In this way, the landowner retains all property rights with exemption of the rights that were specifically and voluntarily surrendered by means of the easement. Typically, the owner will be allowed to continue rural use of the property.

  • Conservation agencies will consider accepting easements that further provide strategic conservation value to the property. Preference is placed upon properties that hold natural or historical value, are facing high potential of development, and currently contain low levels of development.

  • No. Landowners retain the ability to choose whether or not to allow public access to their property. Additionally, most easements are protecting significant natural value and would not recommend public access.

  • There are a variety of reasons that landowners would choose to sell or donate conservation easements. Primarily, landowners wish to preserve the land for their family and heirs, but there are also substantial tax benefits that come along with conservation easements.

Free e-book

Conservation Easement Primer

Written by Dean Saunders, ALC, CCIM
This book is written to give insight and answers to your questions about Florida conservation easements and other landowner rights. 
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