Conservation Easements in SFIA

forested trail

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. If you don't have a conservation easement on your land, you can ignore this page.

Understanding Conservation Easements

A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and the holder of the easement by which the landowner agrees to limit or restrict certain uses of his or her property in order to conserve some values it provides such as open space, wildlife habitat, or other natural or scenic values of the property. 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.

There are many different types of conservation easement programs within Minnesota, each with different goals and purposes, and the restrictions and provisions of conservation easements can vary significantly.

The conservation easement is typically held by either a state government, local government, or non-profit agency. In Minnesota some common easement holders include the MN DNR, Board of Soil and Water Resources (BWSR), MN 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,  and Army Compatible Use Buffer (ACUB).

By state statute conservation easements must be at least a 20-year commitment. Most often they are perpetual, meaning they stay with land forever, regardless if the land is sold or there is a change in ownership.

All conservation easements are documented in a legally binding agreement called an "easement agreement". The document is filed at the county recorder's office in the county at which the land is located. Contact the county recorder's office if you are unsure if a conservation easement exists on your land.

Conservation Easements and SFIA

Land with an existing conservation easement might also be eligible for SIFA. The land and easement must meet all four requirements below. 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, and
  4. Not be a Permanent Wetland Preserve (PWP) conservation easement.

The only covenant length option for SFIA land that is also in a conservation easement is 8 years. For 2018 the estimated payment rate is $3.43 per acre for this sort of covenant.

Land that is in a conservation easement and is also enrolled in SFIA must allow public access. This is a new requirement from 2017 law 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. They do not preserve the natural characteristics of the land or restrict development like a conservation easement.

Current Enrollee Special Details

SFIA, Conservation Easements and Public Access

Changes to SFIA law in 2017, now requires public access to land enrolled in SFIA that also has a conservation easement on it. Public access must be granted starting July 1, 2019. All of your other SFIA land and property is not required to allow public access.

However, the law provides a short window for free withdrawal from SFIA for certain landowners for whom this is a new requirement. If you have less than 1,920 acres of land enrolled in SFIA and have the same land enrolled in a conservation easement, you have the option of withdrawing only the affected land out of SFIA. The deadline to do so is July 1, 2018. Contact Dept. of Revenue to start the withdrawal process.

If you decide to withdraw your land with a conservation easement from SFIA, consider the 2c Managed Forest Land tax classification for your parcel. This classification promotes forest land on the landscape. The tax rate for parcels under this classification is 0.65 percent. You also need a registered forest management plan with the DNR to be eligible. Visit the Dept. of Revenue 2C website and contact your County Assessor's Office for information. If you have a tax parcel in 2c no other land in that same parcel can be enrolled in SFIA.