If you are interested in learning more about conservation easements, pay a visit to the San Francisco Bay Area Open Space Council’s website: www.openspacecouncil.org. Among the resources the Council has made available is their 1999 report, “Ensuring the Promise of Conservation Easements: Report on the Use and Management of Conservation Easements by San Francisco Bay Area Organizations”, a good introduction into the world of conservation easements, and their 2003 “Conserving Agricultural Land Tools, Funding, Organizations and Issues: A Handbook for Local Governments, Land Trusts and Others”, a how-to guide for those interested in establishing effective conservation programs.
Recently, the Land Trust Alliance (a national organization representing land trusts across the United States) and the Trust for Public Land published a revised second edition to their “The Conservation Easement Handbook” (www.lta.org/publications), upgraded and equipped with a resource-packed CD. A recent article in the Land Trust Alliance’s quarterly journal Exchange, “The Conservation Easement Today: Revised Handbook Reflects Lessons Learned in 17 Years,” (www.lta.org/publications/exchange_new/Exchange_24_02.pdf) describes this newly-revised edition and has several articles on conservation easements. The Land Trust Alliance also offers several additional valuable references, including “Saving the Ranch: Conservation Easement Design in the American West” (www.lta.org/publications/easement_lib.htm#sr_ce) and “Protecting the Land: Conservation Easements Past, Present, and Future” (www.lta.org/publications/easement_lib.htm#gus), which tackle the subject of conservation easements on a local and global level, respectively.
Still, despite all that conservation easements have to offer, critics of the concept argue that conservation easements can be ineffective or are often used simply as estate tax shelters. Two such examples of this controversy can be found in the following articles: the LA Times’ August 15, 2005 “Ranch’s Easement Spawns Controversy” and the San Francisco Chronicle’s February 6, 2005 “Stewards of the Land” (www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/
Finally, the California Council of Land Trusts (www.calandtrusts.org) in Sacramento is the best source for information about land trusts around the state.