Frequently Asked Questions

Is this a voluntary program?

Yes. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) enters into conservation easements only with interested landowners.

How long does the easement last?

This is a permanent (perpetual) easement between the Service and the landowner. If the property is sold, the easement transfers to the new landowner.

What does it mean that the easements are “limited-interest?”

A limited-interest easement entitles the Service to purchase a limited set of rights on privately owned land. With wetland easements, the wetland areas cannot be drained, filled, leveled, or burned. With grassland easements, the grasslands cannot be cultivated, and haying is restricted until after July 15 of every year.

Are Service wetland and grassland easements managed in the same way as conservation programs managed by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)?

No. NRCS programs are managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and may have different objectives and conservation strategies. Contact the Service wetland management district office in which your land is located for more information. Contacts can be found in the menu on the left. 

Easement Application and Acceptance Process

How do I begin the process?

Contact the District office in which your land is located. A Service easement specialist or realty specialist will provide more information about the program and answer any questions you may have. If you are interested, an evaluation of your property will be scheduled to determine if it qualifies.

What happens before the easement is accepted?

The Service obtains title information from the abstractor at no cost to you. The title is checked to determine if all owners of record have signed the easement and for liens, judgments, and mortgages on the property. Service attorneys review the case and furnish an opinion of title. If the opinion indicates any title defects, the Service will assist you in correcting them before accepting the easement. The process usually takes about 6 to 9 months.

What happens after the easement is accepted?

You will receive a letter by certified mail informing you that the easement has been accepted and is being recorded at the county courthouse. At that time, the Service will also send you a copy of the fully executed easement.

Financial Aspects

What are the financial benefits of entering the easement program?

When the Service acquires an easement, you, as the landowner, receive a one-time payment.

How is the payment amount determined?

A Service realty specialist will estimate the value of the easement based upon current land sales, assessed values, other indicators of land value relevant to your property, and in compliance with Service policy. You will be provided a written offer in a document called a “Statement of Just Compensation.” The Statement of Just Compensation will describe the property encumbered by the easement and the amount of the payment.

What is the payment method?

A single lump-sum payment will be sent to you from the U.S. Treasury or from another authorized entity for the amount specified in the Statement of Just Compensation.  

When will I be paid?

Payment is usually made after the easement is accepted and recorded in the county courthouse, usually within 6 to 12 months after the easement was signed by the landowner.

What if I have a mortgage on the property?

In most cases, this will not affect the easement transaction. If it is necessary to have the mortgage holder give consent to the easement, the Service will require the mortgage holder to sign an agreement known as a “Subordination Agreement,” which subordinates the rights of the mortgage to those of the easement.

Who pays for the Subordination Agreement?

If there is a charge, you will need to pay for it and then file a claim for reimbursement from the Service through the realty specialist. Reimbursement will occur at the same time as easement payment.

Will I pay income taxes on the payment?

You will be issued an IRS Form 1099-S by the Denver Finance Center at the end of the calendar year in which the easement payment is made. The payment should be reported on your Federal income tax return, but it may not be taxable. Consult your tax attorney or accountant for further guidance.

Will I still need to pay property taxes?

You will still pay property taxes assessed by the County or State government. Conveying an easement to the Service will not change your property tax payment, and will not impact the local property tax base.

Easement Administration

Will the Service be monitoring my land after the agreement is recorded?

Yes. The Service is required to monitor conservation easements to ensure the wetland areas and grasslands are intact and continue to provide wildlife benefits. That said, if you are in compliance with the terms of the agreement, you are unlikely to see a Service representative on your land.

How can I ensure I am in compliance with the terms of the easement?

To ensure you are in compliance, contact the District manager before performing any alterations within or near protected wetland areas and grasslands, including tiling land near protected wetland areas.

What if I have problems with my wetland easement?

Contact your local District staff if you have questions or concerns regarding your easement. The District staff will want to discuss your concerns on a one-on-one basis.

What if the quality of the grassland easement deteriorates?

A written permit may be obtained from the District staff to replant or rejuvenate grassland habitat with a previous cropping history. We encourage grasses that are suitable to your needs and the long-term needs of wildlife. Contact your District staff for ideas on rejuvenating grassland habitat that does not have a cropping history.

Cost-sharing or donated seed may be available through Federal, State, or private organizations.

Additional Questions

Who should I contact with additional questions?

Contact the District office in which your land is located. Contacts can be found in the menu on the left.