A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. Landowners retain many of their rights, including the right to own and use the land, sell it and pass it on to their heirs. Conservation easements must provide public benefits, such as water quality, farm and ranch land preservation, scenic views, wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation, education, and historic preservation. 

Conservation easements provide a permanent guarantee that the land will not be developed. Conservation easements are also essential for passing land on to the next generation. Conservation easement public benefits include: 

  • Improving water quality
  • Preserving farm and ranch land
  • Providing scenic views
  • Protecting wildlife habitat
  • Enabling outdoor recreation
  • Providing an outdoor venue for education
  • Historic preservation

As a Conservation Easement steward, the NCWHF is responsible for ensuring the specific terms of all Conservation Easements are fully honored. The NCWHF conducts annual site visits to all Conservation Easements to ensure compliance with all legal requirements and restrictions specific to each property.

The NCWHF reviews the site at intake. Once the site is approved, Restoration Systems (RS), Resource Environmental Solutions (RES) or Green Environmental may be contracted to develop the site. The developers are responsible for the site for the first seven years. The NCWHF assumes responsibility for the site starting on the eighth year. The NCWHF monitor follows a Standard Operating Procedure and the foundation maintains all reports in a database.

The NCWHF monitor contacts the landowner, and adjacent landowners as required, approximately two weeks prior to conducting an annual conservation easement visit.

The NCWHF reviews the contractual obligations on new Conservation Easements. The NCWHF monitors and reports on encroachments pertaining to all Conservation Easements. The NCWHF will contact the land owner in the event of a Conservation Easement violation. The NCWHF will notify the landowner to correct any identified encroachments. Most cases are addressed and resolved following a notification, as landowners generally do not want to violate the Conservation Easement contract.

The NCWHF maintains a separate legal defense fund to pay for the legal expenses if necessary. In the event it is not possible for a landowner to bring the site back into compliance, the NCWHF notifies state and federal regulatory agencies of the breach and then may use the legal defense fund to seek enforcement of the Conservation Easement terms in the courts.

The NCWHF maintains a database with the total number of Conservation Easements and the associated acres. The NCWHF currently monitors over 60 Conservation Easements consisting of over 3000 acres across the state.

Kim Browning at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulates Conservation Easements in Eastern North Carolina.

The NCWHF and affiliated sponsors do not have any employees affiliated with the mitigation banks.

The NCWHF does not provide annual reports to the IRT. The NCWHF database provides sufficient information on all sites.

The NCWHF maintains endowments in combined funds that are funded upfront in a lump sum. Specifically, the NCWHF maintains three separate accounts related to Conservation Easements. The NCWHF may also use Conservation Easement funds for projects.


Contact our Operations Director for current information about our Conservation Easements throughout the State of North Carolina.

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