Conservation easements in SFIA

forested trail

The Sustainable Forest Incentive Act (SFIA) is not a conservation easement. This page provides information for landowners who have a conservation easement on their land and also want to participate in SFIA. You can ignore this page if you do not have a conservation easement on your land.

Understanding Conservation Easements

A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a government entity or a nonprofit conservation agency qualified to enforce easements. By signing a conservation agreement, landowners agree to limit or restrict certain uses of their property in order to preserve its conservation values—such as open space, wildlife habitat, or other natural or scenic properties. Conservation easements may be purchased or donated.

Land placed into the easement still belongs to the landowner and the landowner retains the right to sell the land or pass it on to heirs.

Many different types of conservation easement programs exist in Minnesota, each with different goals and purposes. The restrictions and provisions of conservation easements can vary significantly.

In Minnesota, landowners often sign easement agreements with the DNR, Board of Soil and Water Resources (BWSR), Minnesota Land Trust, and Ducks Unlimited. Some common conservation easement programs in Minnesota are Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Reserve, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), Forest Legacy, Forests for the Future, and Army Compatible Use Buffer (ACUB).

By state statute, Minnesota conservation easement commitments must be at least 20 years. Most often they are perpetual, meaning they stay with land forever, even if the land is sold or if there is a change in ownership.

All conservation easements are detailed in a legal document called an "easement agreement." The document is filed at the county recorder's office in the county where the land is located. If your land ownership resides over multiple counties, a separate covenant would need to be filed in each county. Contact the county recorder's office if you are unsure whether a conservation easement exists on your land.

Conservation Easements and SFIA

Land with an existing conservation easement might also be eligible for SFIA. The land and easement must meet four requirements. The conservation easement must:

  1. Have been put in place on or before May 30, 2013
  2. Be at least as restrictive as the SFIA covenant
  3. Not be a Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Reserve program conservation easement
  4. Not be a Permanent Wetland Preserve (PWP) conservation easement

The only covenant length option for SFIA land that also is part of a conservation easement is eight years (for more information about this, please see the Dept. of Revenue's SFIA website). The current  payment rate for this sort of covenant is $3.74 per acre.

Note: If your land was enrolled in SFIA in 2017 and has a conservation easement, the payment rate is $7.00 per acre and that land is limited to an 8-year covenant.

Land with a conservation easement and also enrolled in SFIA must allow public access. This is a new requirement resulting from 2017 legislative changes.

Land that is in a conservation easement and is also enrolled in SFIA must allow public access. This is a new requirement as a result of 2017 legislative changes.

I have an easement to access my land. Is that a conservation easement?

No. Access easements are not conservation easements. Access easements exist to give legal access on or across your land to someone or something else. Examples of access easements include: allowing a neighbor access to a shared driveway on your property; allowing a neighbor to cross your property to access a land-locked parcel; or allowing the public to cross your property to access a public access or land on the other side of your parcel. Access easements do not preserve the natural characteristics of your land or restrict development like a conservation easement.

Contact [email protected] if you have any questions or need additional information.