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Conservation Easements

Recreate on DEC Conservation Easement Lands! View properties you can visit.

Every conservation easement is different regarding public access and recreation opportunities. Please read an easement's individual webpage or contact the DEC Lands and Forests office nearest to the easement property for details.

Protecting Natural Resources while Connecting People to the Land

A Meandering Adirondack River

A conservation easement is a voluntary, legal agreement that protects the natural resources of a parcel of land by restricting future land use and/or development on the property "in perpetuity" (permanently). This agreement is held between a landowner and a government agency or land trust, with the landowner maintaining ownership. The conservation easement can either be sold or donated, resulting in a variety of tax benefits for the landowner. The easement is recorded with the property's deed and transfers to all future landowners.

The natural resources and landscape values that easements aim to protect include water quality, wildlife habitat, sensitive ecosystems, wetlands, riparian areas, scenic areas, working forests, and historic sites. All DEC easements prioritize environmental protection, with many allowing some level of public recreational access. There are more than 900,000 acres of DEC conservation easement lands in New York State. While most of these lands are located within the Adirondack Park and Tug Hill Plateau, DEC also holds easements on a variety of other properties around the state. Links to DEC easements that offer public access are available at the bottom of this webpage.

Every Conservation Easement is Unique

The purpose and terms of each conservation easement are tailored to the specific characteristics of each property, and most are designed to meet multiple conservation objectives. For example, an easement intended to conserve a scenic area will have different restrictions than an easement designed to protect an endangered species habitat. Some prohibit all future development, while others allow for limited new construction or other improvements. Most easements allow traditional uses of the land such as forestry, agriculture or recreation to continue as long as the conservation goals of the property are being met.

Recreational Opportunities for the Public

Public access varies among conservation easements. People who plan to visit an easement should read the property's individual web page or contact the DEC Lands and Forests office nearest to the easement property.

DEC has acquired some level of public recreation rights on most easement properties. The amount of public access depends on the goals and objectives of the landowner at the time the easement was negotiated, as well as the natural resources being protected by the easement.

Public recreational opportunities on conservation easement lands are managed either through an interim recreation management plan (IRMP) or a recreation management plan (RMP) prepared by DEC staff with input from the public. These documents address existing natural resources, land uses, and laws and policies, as well as plans for future recreational development. When a property is first acquired by DEC, an IRMP will be created so that some recreational opportunities for the public can be immediately offered while a formal RMP is developed. In some instances, the IRMP or RMP may be part of a state land unit management plan (UMP).

Working Forest Conservation Easements

A working forest conservation easement (WFCE) allows for timber harvesting and/or use of other forest products on a property while ensuring the land remains in a healthy, forested condition. More than 95% of the total acreage of DEC easement lands are WFCEs, and these properties provide the majority of recreations opportunities for the public. Public access to a WFCE may be suspended or relocated in specific areas of an easement due to forest management activities taking place. Many WFCE landowners also rely on income from private hunt club leases, so public hunting may be restricted or prohibited in certain areas.

The landowner of a WFCE is required to develop and update a detailed forest management plan so that all forestry-related activities on the property are carried out in a sustainable way. To accomplish this, forest management plans integrate the conservation of soil, water quality, wildlife and fish habitat, historical significance, recreation, and aesthetics. These values are also prioritized when DEC creates a recreation management plan (RMP) for the property.

DEC provides two options for accomplishing sustainable forest management on these easements:

  1. The landowner works with a professional forester to create a forest management plan that meets certification requirements for a forest certification program such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). Upon receiving certification from one of these programs, the management plan is then filed with the program. The certifying program is responsible for conducting audits to ensure the forest management plan is being followed.
  2. The landowner works with a professional forester to create a forest management plan that is then approved by and filed with DEC. DEC conducts audits to ensure the plan is being followed.

A forest management plan must be in place prior to any forest management activities being conducted on a WFCE.

How to Learn More

For more information about DEC's Conservation Easement Program, contact the DEC Lands and Forests office nearest to the easement property.

To learn more about not-for-profit land conservation organizations, visit our partners' websites:

Conservation Easement Lands Open for Public Recreation

DEC Region 2

New York City Region

DEC Region 5

Eastern Adirondacks/Lake Champlain Region

DEC Region 6

Western Adirondacks/Upper Mohawk Valley/Eastern Lake Ontario Region

Beers Lot Conservation Easement Tract
Big Tupper Conservation Easement Tract
Croghan Conservation Easement Tract
East Branch Fish Creek North Conservation Easement Tract
East Branch Fish Creek South Conservation Easement Tract
Five Mile Conservation Easement Tract
Grass River Conservation Easement Tract
Long Pond Conservation Easement Tract
Massawepie Conservation Easement Tract
Niagara Mohawk Conservation Easement Tracts
Oswegatchie Conservation Easement Tract
Preston Lot Conservation Easement Tract
Seveys Conservation Easement Tract
Sucker Lake Conservation Easement Tract
Tooley Pond Conservation Easement Tract