What is a Soil Health Conservation Easement?

A conservation easement is a common legal agreement tied to a property deed that states permitted and prohibited practices for that parcel to protect conservation values. This agreement is legally binding and is attached to the property in perpetuity regardless of who owns the property. The conservation easement is then granted to a charitable land trust or a government agency to ensure the easement provisions are followed.

 

Soil health conservation easements are designed to protect and preserve topsoil, a precious and lucrative resource that is often exploited and overlooked. The easement provisions are flexible and can account for varying land uses such as row-crop agriculture, pasture, prairie, etc.

The main tenants of soil health conservation easements address the causes of soil degradation by promoting best management practices for healthy topsoil through:

 

  • Continuous Living Roots

  • Mitigation of Soil Disturbance

  • Mitigation of Soil Erosion

 

Other provisions may include:

 

  • Livestock Density Restrictions

  • Building Restrictions

On agricultural lands, a soil health conservation easement promotes best management practices such as no-till, cover crops, terraces, buffers, waterways, etc. Many of these best management practices are economically beneficial, enabling higher yields, reduced inputs, and reduced erosion.  

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Benefits

A soil health conservation easement not only protects and preserves natural resources for the future. It also provides tangible benefits in the present. An easement usually decreases the property's fair market value. Therefore, once donated, the easement may be viewed as a charitable act and could result in a tax deduction for the landowner.

 

Interested in Learning More?

Whiterock Conservancy currently holds the Nation’s first-ever soil health conservation easements, covering 2,000 acres with more conservation easements on the horizon. Connect with us to learn more about what a soil health conservation easement could mean for you and your property by emailing easements@whiterockconservancy.org or calling 712.290.8221.

Get a deeper understanding of why soil health is important by watching the webinar "Soils with Kathy Woida." NRCS Scientist and author of "Iowa's Remarkable Soils," Kathy Woida,  discusses soil properties, soil degradation in Iowa, and basic methods of maintaining soil health in agriculture. 

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Meet the Team 

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Tyler Bruck
Land Programs Manager

Carissa Shoemaker
Director of Land Stewardship