Conservation easements are perpetual and protect privately owned wetlands from being drained, filled, leveled or burned; protect grasslands from being converted to cropland; and they prevent privately owned land from being subdivided or developed. The USFWS purchases these real property rights from willing sellers, and the private landowner maintains all other property and management rights including full control of public access to their land.
Funding for the purchase of conservation easements within one of our three designated Conservation Areas may come from Land and Water Conservation Fund Act. Land and Water Conservation Act Fund money is derived primarily from oil and gas leases on the outer continental shelf, motorboat fuel tax revenues, and sale of surplus federal property. Other funding sources may come from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, private donations, and non-profit organizations.
The basic considerations in acquiring an easement interest in private land are the biological significance of the area, existing and anticipated threats to wildlife resources, and landowner interest in the program. The purchase of conservation easements occurs with willing sellers only and is subject to available funding. As of 2013, the Benton Lake Wetland Management District administers over 120,000 acres of conservation easements.