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Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry
Conservation Easement Registry
FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is a conservation easement?
  2. What is the purpose of the registry?
  3. I own land that has a conservation easement on it. Do I need to register?
  4. What kind of easements need to be registered?
  5. Who needs to register?
  6. Is there an annual reporting deadline?
  7. What is the Monitoring Status?
  8. What information do I need to start the registration process?
  9. Do I need to register a conservation easement for which my organization is a third-party Holder or enforcer?
  10. Can I upload my information to the registry?
  11. Can I download my information?
  12. What is an amendment? What do I need to do?
  13. I have a conservation easement that adds acreage to an existing easement. How do I register this?
  14. The conserved property has been sold to a new owner. Do I need to do anything?
  15. How do I handle subdivisions of the protected property?
  16. How do I transfer a conservation easement?
  17. How do I handle terminations of a conservation easement?
  18. What is the internal ID number?
  19. Why is the information entered into the registry so limited?
  20. Is the conservation easement registry information available to the public?

1. What is a conservation easement?

A conservation easement is a legally enforceable restriction on the future uses of property, which can be sold or granted as a gift by the land’s current owners. Granted in the form of a deed to a governmental entity or qualified conservation land trust, it is designed to preserve and protect the land’s conservation values over time, while leaving the land in private ownership and on the tax rolls. The holders of the easement have the right to enforce the restrictions on the land. Conservation easements can be designed to keep a property in an essentially wild state, or to allow limited residential uses, farming and forestry. Some conservation easements grant public access on or over the private lands. All future owners of the land take it subject to the easement’s restrictions. Conservation Easements are authorized under state and federal law and have certain requirements that must be met to make them legally binding and, in the case of federal law, to make them deductible as a charitable gift. Experienced legal and accounting advice is essential to the landowner in making a decision to grant a permanent conservation easement. (see Title 33 MRS §476 et seq)


2. What is the purpose of the registry?

Conservation easements have become a very common tool used to protect Maine’s special character including its fish and wildlife habitat, farms, working forests, other natural resources, scenery, and outdoor recreation opportunities. In 2007, the Maine Legislature enacted a series of amendments to Maine law authorizing conservation easements (see now Title 33 MRS §476 et seq). Of particular note is the new requirement that conservation easement Holder monitor each of its easements at least once every three years. Because most conservation easements create perpetual restrictions on the use of the properties they affect, the Legislature also decided that it would be important to create a central registry of conservation easements to facilitate oversight and to track the use of conservation easements throughout the state.


3. I own land that has a conservation easement on it. Do I need to register?

No. The owner of the land "under" a conservation easement is not responsible for registration. Only the Holder of the easement must register it. Landowners may want to check with the organization holding the easement on their property to be sure it has been registered but they, as landowners, have no legal responsibility for that action.


4. What kind of easements need to be registered?

Only conservation easements need to be registered in this registry. Do not register other real estate conveyances sometimes referred to as “easements” including historic preservation easements, solar easements, rights of way or utility easements. Some instruments labled "trail easements" actually cite Title 33 MRSA section 476 et seq and are thus conservation easements that should be registered. If the "trail easement" references Title 33 MRSA section 1581 et seq it does not need to be registered. If in doubt, contact the Registry Administrator.


5. Who needs to register?

Any entity that is the primary Holder of a conservation easement on property in the State of Maine is required to register all of the conservation easements it holds. Such entities include state and federal agencies, municipalities, quasi-municipal organizations such as water districts, local land trusts and any other charitable trust or nonprofit corporation. Title 33 MRS §476 et seq provides the legal authority for conservation easements in Maine. Parties listed as “third party Holders” or “third party enforcers” do not need to register that conservation easement.


6. Is there an annual reporting deadline?

YES. The annual renewal deadline is March 30. You should review your registry records for accuracy, add new conservation easements and update the monitoring status of each conservation easement. Your organization will need to pay its annual registration fee ($30.00 per organization) prior to that date as well. Annual registration fee payment needs to be completed on line via credit cards. MasterCard or VISA is acceptable. Whenever you sign-on to the registry after January 1 you will be reminded of the need to update records although you can be adding easements and managing your records at any time during the year.


7. What is the Monitoring Status?

Every conservation easement should be monitored regularly by the Holder. This activity includes a field visit to the property, typically a meeting with the landowner, and a written report that is held in the Holder's files. Maine law requires that all conservation easements be monitored at least once every three years and best practices entail annual monitoring. This data field is used to enter the date of the most recent monitoring report. If the easement is less than one year old, please enter the same date as the "Date of Recording".


8. What information do I need to start the registration process?

Initially you will need to create an account. This will require you to create a username and password and supply an email address for your organization to which you have access. The Registry will send a confirming email to that email address with instructions on how to activate the account. The initial activation will require the full name and mailing address of the organization, a contact name and phone number, the Maine corporate charter number (if any) and the type of organization. You will be prompted to pay an initial registration fee of $30 by credit card, (MasterCard or Visa). Please note that you cannot enter your registration data without first having entered a valid credit card number. Once you have activated your account you will be prompted to register all of your organization’s conservation easements. You will need the following information:

• Easement name

• Counties and Towns affected

• Execution date

• Registry of Deeds Book/page (& recording dates)

• Acreage (by town if more than one town)

• Original grantor name

• Current landowner name (can be multiples if original parcel has been subdivided)

• Third Party holders (if any)

• Most recent monitoring date

• Amendments (if any) with recording information


9. Do I need to register a conservation easement for which my organization is a third-party Holder or enforcer?

NO. The primary Holder will register that conservation easement and should be listing you as third-party Holder or third-party enforcer as part of that registration.


10. Can I upload my information to the registry?

NO. Data security concerns and the likelihood of errors introduced during an upload preclude this option. Assuming your organization has its records well organized, to complete the initial entry should average approximately 5 minutes per conservation easement. Once entered, annual updates of monitoring status will be very quick.


11. Can I download my information?

YES. You may download all of the data associated with your organization’s registration. Downloads will be displayed as a comma-delimited text file with field names. This information can be saved to your computer as a text file for import to another database or cut and pasted into a spreadsheet like Excel. Because the Registry is a relational database, the information must be downloaded in several separate files. A unique identifier is provided with each so that you can import the data to your database and “reassociate” the data.


12. What is an amendment? What do I need to do?

Amendments to the conservation easement itself need to be added to your easement record. There is a set of fields for the County, book, page and date of registration for easement record. To add an amendment to an existing easement record, select the easement and chose the view/edit/amend option. At the bottom of the next screen will be an "Add Amendement" button. This will prompt you to enter the appropriate information. The sale of the conserved property itself is NOT an amendment.


13. I have a conservation easement that adds acreage to an existing easement. How do I register this?

If the easement falls exclusively within a single town, you can register this transaction as an amendment to the existing easement and then edit the acreage field on the easement itself to add the new acreage. If the easement adds acreage in a new town, you will need to register this as a new easement. Please use the "Comments" field on both the new and old easement to explain the relationship between the two easements.


14. The conserved property has been sold to a new owner. Do I need to do anything?

YES. Please update the Current Landowner field of the easement record. You should write over the name of the old (previous) landowner. Note: You do not need to enter any of the recording infomation for the sale (book and page). The sale of the land itself is NOT an amendment to the easement.


15. How do I handle subdivisions of the protected property?

Some conservation easements allow for division of the protected property. If this happens the Registry allows you to enter an additional “Current Landowner” name to the record of that easement up to 10. Such a division does not affect the conservation easement deed your organization holds and you do NOT need to transfer the easement or add an amendment.


16. How do I transfer a conservation easement?

The Registry provides a simple transfer feature. You only need to know the organizational name under which the recipient of the transferred easement is listed in the Registry. If the recipient is not already in the Registry, you will need to ask them to set up an active account. You will also need the recording information (book and page) of the deed of transfer. After submitting a request to transfer, the recipient will receive an email with the request. When they accept the transfer the Registry will make the update in its records.


17. How do I handle terminations of a conservation easement?

The termination of a conservation easement requires action by a court of law and is an unusual event. Should your organization hold a conservation easement which has been terminated, you will need to contact the Registry Administrator to confirm that this has occurred and to supply any documentation the Administrator may require. Upon confirmation of court decision, the Administrator will “deactivate” that conservation easement and it will no longer appear in Registry records as an active or valid conservation easement.


18. What is the internal ID number?

This is a unique number or code assigned by you exclusively for your own management of easement records held by your organization. By using this field you can cross check your information held in the Registry with your own records. This field is optional and can be left blank.


19. Why is the information entered into the registry so limited?

Our first task is to get the “basic model” of the Registry running smoothly. While there are many efforts underway in Maine and nationally to develop more sophisticated online tools for land conservation work, the Maine Legislature focused its initial expectations on a limited set of information for each conservation easement registered.


20. Is the conservation easement registry information available to the public?

YES. All information contained in the Registry is treated as a “public record” under Maine law and is available to the public upon request. Parties seeking registry information should contact the Registry Administrator. The information is available only in tabular form and does not contain any maps or geospatial information at this time.


 

Questions about this Service? Contact the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry at: (207) 287-1487 or Email: EasementAdministrator@maine.gov