Easement Program

What is an easement and why does
the TJSWCD hold them?

Our District's non-profit subsidiary that manages the administrative and custodial duties of easement holding.

Steps in contributing your easement through traditional donation or our StreamKeeper program

The act that gave authority for SWCDs like ours to hold easements that others may not.

Different groups target different types of easements. See which could be the best choice for your property.

Forms, Documents, and Downloads related to the Easement program.


What is an Easement?

An easement with the TJSWCD is a legal agreement between the District and a landowner to permanently preserve and protect land in an undeveloped state. Easements are tailored to reflect the conservation values of the property and the goals of the landowner; the terms of an easement are negotiable. Easements allow a landowner to permanently protect all or a portion of their land without giving up ownership. The land is still free to be enjoyed, sold, or passed on to heirs by the landowner. They do not grant public access to the land. Easements may include an entire parcel or farm, or may just protect the water resources on a property, such as a riparian buffer area along a stream.

Why does the TJSWCD hold easements?

The primary purpose of the TJSWCD Easement Program is to protect water resources. As such, the program focuses on the protection of riparian forest buffers, critical slopes, springs, wetlands, and groundwater recharge areas.

What types of easements does the TJSWCD accept?

    Regulatory-Based Easements fulfill federal, state or local requirements intended to protect water quality for new development. The developer or owner offers to permanently protect a stream buffer or other resource area in lieu of more expensive Best Management Practices and pays the full custodial fees associated with these easements.

    Stewardship Easements are offered voluntarily by the landowner to the District in perpetuity. Landowners are requested to pay a stewardship fee to cover the District's costs of ensuring the property owners' long-term wishes for the property's protection are followed.

    StreamKeeper Properties have not yet had a deed of easement filed because funds are not available to pay for the expenses involved. Owners have willingly drafted easement language and enrolled their properties into the StreamKeeper program because they want to see the land protected. These properties will become Stewardship Easements, if and when funding becomes available to cover the custodial fee.

    Proffers are often offered by developers to mitigate impacts from a development. These may include offers of funding for new roads that are needed to handle increased traffic or funding for schools to provide for increases in school-age populations. The Foundation will accept proffers from developers who wish to mitigate water resource impacts caused by their developments. The proffer may be in the form of an easement to permanently protect other water resources on-site, or may be in the form of funding to provide permanent protection of other properties. (All proffers must first be offered to, and approved by, the locality in which the development is proposed.)

Thomas Jefferson Water Resources Protection Foundation

Founded by the TJSWCD in 2003, the Foundation provides the resources to ensure that the District will be able to meet the long term administrative and custodial duties of holding easements in perpetuity. The Foundation is a 501(C)3 non-profit subsidiary of the TJSWCD. The Foundation is governed by its own Board of Directors who are appointed by the local governing bodies of Albemarle, Fluvanna, Louisa and Nelson Counties, the City of Charlottesville and by the TJSWCD Board of Directors. This Board ensures that the interests of all member localities are adequately represented. The financial resources of the Foundation, acquired through easement holding fees and other contributions, are set aside in investments to support the TJSWCD Easement Program well into the future.

The Foundation Board of Directors meets quarterly, on the third Wednesday of January, April, July, and October, beginning at 10:00 a.m. in the TJSWCD Charlottesville office. Please contact Mary Johnson at (434)975-0224 ext.101 or use the Contact form to confirm meeting dates and times.

Easement Donation

Why should the TJSWCD hold your easement?

The TJSWCD has been protecting precious soil and water resources in Albemarle, Nelson, Louisa, and Fluvanna counties for over seventy-five years. The TJSWCD will hold easements on small, isolated parcels of land that may be ineligible for other easement programs. As a locally based organization, the TJSWCD will make certain your wishes for the land, as documented in the deed of easement, are carried on forever. Annual staff visits ensure the land is being properly managed.

What are the benefits of having an easement placed on my land?

An easement provides the security and peace of mind that your wishes for the land will be honored forever. Easements:

  • Guarantee that the beauty and natural resources you enjoy on your land will be there for your children.
  • Enhance habitat with a diversity of plants and animals and provide a great opportunity for bird watchers or other wildlife enthusiasts.
  • Allow growth of trees and other vegetation in a protected area that filter pollutants, reduce erosion and maintain cooler water temperatures.
  • May lower the estate tax due on the land, making it possible to keep the property in the family generation after generation.
  • May qualify as a deduction on your federal income taxes or for a state tax credit.
  • May fulfill development-related stormwater or mitigation requirements.

  • How do I place my land under easement?

  • Contact the District at (434) 975-0244 or e-mail us through the Contact Page.
  • A staff member will visit you on your property to discuss easement options.
  • The TJWRP Foundation Board of Directors will consider preliminary approval of the proposed easement.
  • If preliminary approval is granted, a staff member will work with you and the attorney of your choice to create a deed of easement that best suits your goals for the land.
  • TJSWCD staff will then calculate a fee for the easement that will cover set-up and monitoring costs for perpetuity.
  • The Foundation and District Boards will consider final approval of the easement boundaries and provisions.
  • Donation of the easement is complete once it is signed by the TJSWCD and the landowner and then recorded in the Clerk's office of the Circuit Court.
  • If you wish to take advantage of one of the financial incentives available to those who make a charitable donation, you must obtain an appraisal for the value of the land under easement. (The TJSWCD does not offer advice on tax credits or other incentives that may be available.)

  • What are the terms and restrictions an easement will cover?

    Each deed of easement is unique to the landowner, but all TJSWCD easements cover several basic restrictions to protect the defined water resource area, such as:

  • Cutting of brush and vegetation in proximity to the water resource.
  • Allowable impervious surfaces - total square feet of roof and driveway.
  • Soil disturbances such as grading, mining or blasting.
  • Landowners are required to give the TJSWCD a 60 day notification of sale or transfer of the land.
  • With due notification, inspections by staff members must be permitted to ensure that the terms of the easement are being kept.
  • Upon any breach or threatened potential breach of the agreement, the TJSWCD may, after reasonable notice to Grantor, take such action as the Grantee determines to be necessary or appropriate to enforce the covenants and restrictions set forth in this Easement.

  • What is the StreamKeeper Program?

    The StreamKeeper Program is intended for landowners who would like to protect their property in perpetuity, but do not have the financial resources available to pay the fees associated with conveying a permanent easement to the TJSWCD. Riparian forest buffers, critical slopes, springs, wetlands, and groundwater recharge areas are considered desirable resources to enroll in this program because these landscape features help ensure that overall regional water quality is protected. Once a property is designated a StreamKeeper Property, a landowner agrees to direct building and development away from the significant resource, and to maintain sensitive areas in permanent forest.

    The StreamKeeper designation is awarded by the TJSWCD. A "whole" property may be nominated or just the portion which protects the water resource, such as a riparian forest buffer area. Interested owners work with the District's staff and the Thomas Jefferson Water Resources Protection Foundation to evaluate a piece of land and to draft a deed of easement. (The Thomas Jefferson Water Resources Protection Foundation was developed by the TJSWCD to administer their Easement Program.) A deed of easement sets basic management guidelines that ensure protection of the water resources in perpetuity. Once a property is designated a StreamKeeper property, staff works with the landowner to obtain funding to pay the easement-holding fees. When all the fees are paid and a deed of easement is filed, the StreamKeeper property becomes a TJSWCD Stewardship Easement. The ultimate goal of the StreamKeeper program is to have all properties protected under an open-space easement.

    How can I contribute to the StreamKeeper Program?

    Help make permanent protection for these properties possible by making a donation to the TJWRPF. Funding may be designated for a particular easement in the StreamKeepers queue, (an "adopted" easement), or for general funding of the queue. Donations should be made to the Thomas Jefferson Water Resources Protection Foundation, a 501(c) 3 organization. All gifts to this Foundation are charitable contributions and are tax deductible as allowed by the law.

    Open Space Lands Act

    The Open Space Lands Act (10.1, Chapter 17), provides the authority for Soil and Water Conservation Districts to hold open-space easements. Under this authority, the TJSWCD holds open-space easements to protect and enhance water quality. The District has been focusing its efforts on securing riparian easements to preserve forested buffers along waterways. All easements held by the TJSWCD contribute to the protection of water resources in your community. The District's Easement Program is intended to fill a void by holding easements that other easement-holding entities are unable to hold.

    Other Organizations

    The TJSWCD currently holds 16 easements. Twelve of those are riparian forest buffer easements, while four are "whole tract" easements. In total 557 acres are permanently preserved, including 121 acres of permanent riparian forest buffers along 43,812 linear feet of streams. However, not every easement is ideal for the Thomas Jefferson Water Resources Protection Foundation easement criteria. There are various other organizations on a national and local level who hold easements and each organization has a different set of criteria. If you don't think the TJSWCD is the right fit for your easement, try reaching out to some of the groups below.

    Acquisition of Conservation Easements (ACE) Program for Albemarle County

    The ACE (Acquisition of Conservation Easements) Program is a voluntary land protection program developed by the County to purchase easements on family farms and rural properties owned by landowners of modest means - those who would receive little or no financial benefit from a donated easement.


    A C.R.E.P. (Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program) land conservation easement is an option after the landowner installs riparian buffer protection on agricultural land, coordinated by the US Natural Resources Conservation Service or a Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District. The easement is held by the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. Call DCR: 804-786-7717.

    Historic Green Springs

    Historic Green Springs, Inc., is a land trust that holds easements in the US Park Service designated National Historic Landmark District in Louisa County. Contact them at P.O. Box 1685,Louisa, VA 23093-1685 or phone (540) 967-1099.

    The Nature Conservancy

    The Nature Conservancy is a leading international nonprofit organization that preserves plants, animals and natural communities representing the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive.Through its science-based planning, the Conservancy has identified five watersheds and 22 examples of large contiguous native forests in the Virginia Piedmont Region as priority sites for protection.

    Piedmont Environmental Council

    The Piedmont Environmental Councilpromotes and protects the Virginia Piedmonts rural economy, natural resources, history and beauty. They promote the donations of conservation and open-space easements and offer assistance in the process.

    Virginia Outdoors Foundation

    The Virginia Outdoors Foundation was established in 1966 by the General Assembly to conserve and protect Virginia's scenic, natural, historic, recreational, scientific, and open-space areas for the benefit of the public. The primary mechanism for accomplishing this mission is its open-space easement program.

    Easement Documents