Since 1990, the Amador Land Trust has
worked to protect local parcels from
development, working with farmers,
ranchers, and other landowners to help
preserve their land in perpetuity. ALT, a
nonprofit corporation, accepts donations of
conservation easements from property
owners. A donation to ALT is a
tax-deductible contribution which can reduce
the value of land for property tax and estate
What is a conservation easement? As
described by Cristi Bozora, in the February
1998 issue of Sierra News, the newsletter of
the Sierra Nevada Alliance, a conservation easement is, "a voluntary agreement between a landowner
and a local government body or qualified nonprofit organization that preserves the natural resource
values of the land by limiting or eliminating development on it.
"While the landowner still owns the property, the easement-holder separately holds the development
rights, which it agrees never to exercise. The property continues to be used as before, but the natural
resources that make the property valuable for conservation are preserved forever."
"Think of private property rights as a 'bundle of sticks,'" Bozora says, "With each stick representing a
different landowner right, such as use, sale, lease, or future development. By mutual agreement,
different 'sticks' can be held separately by different entities. For example, a rancher can still own the
land, live on it, run cattle on it and continue other historic uses -but he or she can choose to give up the
right to subdivide and/or develop the land in exchange for financial or other compensation.
"By having given up the right of development, the land owner in essence devalues that property, at least
in the eyes of the government," resulting in potential reductions in property and estate taxes (see box).
ALT expanding local lands under easement
In the last six years, ALT has placed
conservation easements on eight
landholdings (more than 1,600 acres) in
Amador, Calaveras, and El Dorado counties.
Four easements are pending. While
conditions for the easements vary, all
preclude intense future development of the
land. ALT is gaining recognition as a key
player in the effort to protect lands in the
Sierra foothills and has received several
referrals from The Nature Conservancy.
This winter the Packard Foundation
announced an initiative to protect key lands
in California, including the Sierra. A
generous $175 million will be spent
acquiring lands and easements. We're hopeful that ALT will be among the groups working with the
California Environmental Trust in acquiring land and conservation easements in the Sierra foothills.
If you are interested in the work of the ALT, or would like to talk to them about a conservation easement
on your own land, please call Jane Bardin at 296-5739 or 223-1225, or Susan Roudebush at 754-4455