Conservation Easement Due Diligence: Navigating IRS Approval, Appraisals, Phase 1 Assessments and More

Effective Due Diligence Approaches for Easement Grantors and Grantee Conservation Organizations

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A

Conducted on Tuesday, August 1, 2017
Recorded event now available

This CLE webinar will provide guidance for counsel for grantee conservation organizations and easement grantors on key due diligence issues involved in conservation easement transactions. The panel will outline approaches to identify and mitigate risks and liabilities.


A conservation easement is a legally enforceable perpetual land preservation agreement between a landowner and either a government agency or a qualified land protection organization (such as a land trust) for the purposes of conservation of the land and its resources.

To identify and manage environmental risks, due diligence is a critical component of transactions. Site assessments are key to identifying potential risks/liabilities.

Title review is necessary to show that no mortgages are senior to the conservation easement; otherwise, the mortgage needs to be subordinated to the easement. Donors must also consider choosing a conservation partner carefully. Counsel must ensure the easement meets IRS approval for grantors of the easements where there is a donation.

Listen as our authoritative panel of environmental attorneys discusses preparation for due diligence for conservation easements, the scope of due diligence, the relationship between the grantee organization and the grantor, potential risks presented, and available protections.


  1. Choosing a conservation partner (easement holder)
  2. IRS approval requirements if grantor donates easement
  3. Due diligence
    1. Survey
    2. Baseline Data
    3. Appraisals and a Land Use Analysis
    4. Title Searches and Subordination Issues
    5. Environmental assessments
  4. Easement Monitoring and Stewardship
  5. Easement Modification, Interpretation and Amendments


The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • What should easement grantors consider when choosing a conservation partner?
  • What factors help determine the scope of due diligence sufficient for real estate transactions?
  • What are the best practices for evaluating and managing environmental risks in conservation easement transactions?
  • What should easement grantors consider in order to minimize audit risks associated with donated conservation easements?


Benjamin S. Wechsler, Partner
Linowes and Blocher, Annapolis, Md.

Mr. Wechsler concentrates his practice on land use and environmental law, as well as litigation. Prior to joining the firm, he worked as a commercial and real estate litigator with the San Francisco and Palo Alto offices of Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich now part of DLA Piper. His practice focuses on the management of land and water resources, and including the Maryland Forest Conservation Act, the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Area Program, and various federal, state, and county programs regulating land use, water quality, and wetlands protection.

Bill Crouch, State Director, Conservation Acquisition
The Conservation Fund, Maryland

Mr. Crouch sources, manages and oversees all conservation real estate activities occurring in Maryland working to establish positive and productive relations with partners and landowners throughout the state. He brings extensive transactional experience to the world of land conservation. For eight years prior to joining The Conservation Fund, he served as acquisitions officer for Phillips Edison & Company, one of the country’s largest shopping center owners.

Maureen L. Mitchell, Partner
Fox Rothschild, Seattle

Ms. Mitchell’s environmental practice involves representing public and private entities, including non-profits, in regulatory and litigation matters. She has experience in the following areas of law: CERCLA (including Natural Resource Damage claims), RCRA, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Model Toxics Control Act, SEPA/NEPA, climate change/carbon markets, and water rights. Her litigation practice has particular emphasis on commercial disputes, insurance, real estate, environmental, land use, and Indian law. She has represented clients in state and federal courts, at the trial level, and on appeal.


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The case study approach was extremely helpful and interesting on this timely topic.

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Sullivan & Worcester

The presentations were excellent and timely, and I thought the Q&A was very good.

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Environmental Law Advisory Board

John J. Allen


Allen Matkins

Albert M. Cohen


Loeb & Loeb

Aaron Courtney


Stoel Rives

Andrew N. Davis


Shipman & Goodwin

David R. Gillay


Barnes & Thornburg

Brian D. Israel


Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer

Thomas J. P. McHenry


Gibson Dunn & Crutcher

James B. Slaughter


Beveridge & Diamond

Jeffrey A. Smith

Senior Counsel

Sidley Austin

E. Gail Suchman

Special Counsel

Stroock & Stroock & Lavan

Gregory D. Trimarche

Senior Counsel

Ring Bender

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