Conservation easements are voluntary agreements between landowners and Boulder County that legally restrict how land can be used. When the landowner sells the property, the conservation easement agreement remains with the property.
Conservation Easement Program Policies & Practices
Please see the Program Policies and Practices for more detailed information regarding the county’s guiding practices involving conservation easements.
What is a Conservation Easement
Boulder County tailors the language in each conservation easement to protect the natural features of each individual property. The following handout provides an example list of the provisions that may be found in a conservation easement held by Boulder County.
Preserving Open Spaces
Conservation easements are designed to protect agricultural land, wildlife habitat, and scenic open space from development while keeping the ownership, management, and use of the property private.
Current conservation easements protect more than 40,000 acres and nearly 850 private properties to preserve:
- Scenic open space
- Agricultural properties as working farms and ranches
- Mountain properties that protect significant natural habitat
- Buffers between municipalities
- Natural areas, historically important buildings, and pastoral character in rural areas
Landowners with conservation easements are partners with Boulder County in protecting the property’s conservation values. The county’s conservation easement staff is a great resource for landowners with management and use questions.
- The land remains privately owned.
- The landowner retains the right to use the land with the agreed upon conservation easement conditions.
- All management of the land.
- Abides by agreements to limit the development and allowable uses on the property.
Types of Conservation Easements (CE)
Landowners who believe their properties have significant conservation values and desire a protective status are encouraged to donate a conservation easement to Boulder County. Boulder County is certified by the Department of Conservation at the State of Colorado to steward and accept conservation easements with donation components. The certificate is available upon request.
Contact staff at Boulder County’s Conservation Easement Program to have your property assessed for its conservation values. Staff works with landowners throughout the negotiating, Boulder County Commissioner approval, and closing processes, which typically take several months. Conservation easement donations must meet state and federal regulations, which impose specific requirements that can extend these processes.
- Donations that qualify may be eligible for federal income tax deductions or Colorado income tax credits.
- Boulder County may decline a conservation easement donation offer.
- Accepted conservation easement donations are not guaranteed tax benefits.
- Consult qualified independent professionals to obtain legal, financial, and tax advice in advance.
- Boulder County cannot give legal, financial, or tax advice to landowners.
- The county makes no representations, implied or otherwise, as to the tax treatment a transaction may receive.
Under limited circumstances, Boulder County may consider purchasing a conservation easement on properties with exceptional conservation values.
Transferable Development Right (TDR) CE
Defined Municipal Area
- A landowner whose property lies near a municipality and within an area defined in Boulder County’s land use regulations and intergovernmental agreements may qualify to ‘send’ a transferable development right (TDR) to a designated receiving site.
- The landowner is required to grant a conservation easement to Boulder County over the sending property in exchange for the TDR, which the landowner sells to a developer who uses it to develop a residence on the receiving property.
- Landowners may restrict the size of their residences or leave their property vacant in return for transferable development credits (TDCs) that can be sold to other landowners or developers directly or through Boulder County’s Transferable Development Credit Marketplace.
- Properties with significant conservation value may qualify for bonus credits.
Non-Urban Planned Unit Development (NUPUD) CE
Few properties remain large enough to qualify for the non-urban planned unit development process. Interested landowners can contact the Community Planning & Permitting Department for information.