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Conservation Easement Program

Butte SinkThe Conservation Easement Program is a voluntary program where willing landowners are paid a percentage of their wetland or agricultural property's fair market value for purchase of the farming and development rights in perpetuity.

The Service has been implementing the Conservation Easement Program in the Sacramento Valley since 1981. Funding for this program comes from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund (Duck Stamp Fund), and accordingly, easement acquisition focuses on the protection of existing and restored wetlands for migratory birds. Conservation easements have been purchased from willing landowners in three different acquisition areas (Butte Sink Wildlife Management Area, Willow Creek-Lurline Wildlife Management Area, and North Central Valley Wildlife Area) which cover the majority of the Sacramento Valley floor. Since the program's inception, 145 Easements have been purchased which protect over 30,000 acres of wetlands and associated upland habitat.

The Conservation Easement Program is completely voluntary, and as such, the Service will pay willing landowners a percentage of their wetland or agricultural property's fair market value to purchase the farming and development rights in perpetuity. When purchasing easements on agricultural land we work directly with landowners to develop, fund and implement a wetland restoration plan. While farming and development are prohibited on easement lands, the landowner retains many rights including: trespass rights, mineral rights, grazing rights, habitat management rights, the right to hunt and/or operate a hunting club, and the ability to pursue other types of undeveloped recreation (i.e. fishing, hiking, etc.). The Service does not require landowners to flood their wetland properties, however, the Service reserves the right to flood easement properties at the government’s expense. Landowners are not required to follow a management plan, but technical assistance is provided by the Service and landowners are encouraged to participate in various programs for habitat restoration, enhancement and management. The Service conducts annual aerial flights to monitor for compliance with the easement. 

For more information, contact staff at (530) 934-2801 

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Last Updated: May 17, 2013
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