Land & Garden Conservancy

What is a conservation easement?

A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and a conservation organization or government agency such as the Town of Atherton that permanently limits a property's uses to protect its conservation values, such as its special gardens, trees and open space. Each conservation easement's restrictions are tailored to the particular property, to the interests of the individual owner or granting foundation, and to the policies and purposes of the easement holder for the use of the property.

Unlike outright donations of land, landowners conveying conservation easements retain title to their lands and continue to enjoy all the benefits of land ownership, subject to the easement's restrictions, local codes, and other applicable governmental regulations.

Although the Atherton Conservation Trust is in the process of preparing its 501(c)3 status to be capable of accepting donations of real property and providing the tax-deductibility for such gifts to the donor, realistically, for certain donors, establishing a conservation easement can achieve the same preservation goals more easily and possibly with more long-term security. The Atherton Conservation Trust is seeking both large parcels to conserve and use as public gardens or parks for Atherton residents as well as residents from the surrounding communities but also to fund endowments that can be self-sustaining, so that the costs of maintaining the properties as parks can withstand the ups and downs of government funding cycles.

Conservancy Partners

The Atherton Conservation Trust is building partnerships with a range of local and national conservation groups and will be able to access both expertise as well as detailed information on the easement acquisition process, closing documentation, tax benefits, and guidance on ongoing stewardship issues.

Garden Conservancy: The image at right is an example of one of the Garden Conservancy's projects. This property, called Green Gables, in Woodside, California, was secured in 2004, when the Fleishhacker family donated an easement to the Garden Conservancy to protect this historically significant garden and architectural landscape. The 75-acre Green Gables estate, designed by famed architect Charles Sumner Greene in the early twentieth century, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The easement restricts subdivision or further development of the property, and ensures that the historic gardens, buildings, and landscape will be preserved and maintained.

Examples of the types of documents used for this project can be seen at the This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it at the Garden Conservancy's website.

Los Altos Hills: The Town of Los Altos Hills' Open Space Committee has issued "A Guide to Understanding Conservation Easements," and this printed booklet contains background information, a step-by-step checklist for creating a conservation easement, a feasibility checklist and more.

Land Trust Alliance: The Land Trust Alliance is the national convener, strategist and representative of more than 1300 land trusts across America. LTA has pioneered the use of conservation easements to conserve land and they provide much useful information to their members.

Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District: We have met with and built an alliance with representatives from the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. Their guidance has helped already to Point ACT towards the idea of using conservation easements for our intended projects.


"Nature never did betray the heart that loved her." —William Wordsworth