Farm and Ranch Land Protection

Agricultural Conservation Easements

A conservation easement is a deed restriction landowners voluntarily place on their property to protect resources such as productive agricultural land, ground and surface water, wildlife habitat, historic sites or scenic views. They are used by landowners (“grantors”) to authorize a qualified conservation organization or public agency (“grantee”) to monitor and enforce the restrictions set forth in the agreement. Conservation easements are flexible documents tailored to each property and the needs of individual landowners. The landowner usually works with the prospective grantee to decide which activities should be limited to protect specific resources. Agricultural conservation easements (ACEs) are drafted to keep land available for agriculture. In general, ACEs limit subdivision, nonfarm development and other uses of the land that are incompatible with farming. 


Land Trusts

A land trust is a private, nonprofit organization that protects natural resources such as productive farm and forest land, watersheds, rivers and streams and recreational areas. Land trusts acquire land and/or conservation easements, accept donated land and/or easements, facilitate land protection projects, and steward properties and easements to ensure that the conservation purposes are upheld over time.


Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easement Programs

Purchase of agricultural conservation easement (PACE) programs pay property owners to keep productive land available for agriculture. PACE is known as purchase of development rights (PDR) in many locations. Landowners voluntarily sell agricultural conservation easements to public entities to prevent it from being converted to other uses. After selling an easement, the landowner retains other rights of ownership including the right to farm the land, prevent trespass, sell bequeath or otherwise transfer the land. 


Agricultural Conservation Easement Program

The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) provides technical and financial assistance to landowners to conserve and protect farm and ranch lands, grasslands and wetlands. Under the Agricultural Land Easements component, NRCS partners with eligible entities--Indian tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations--to buy agricultural conservation easements on working agricultural lands. It keeps land available for agriculture and limits non-farm development.