The Heron Lake watershed was once a water bird production and migration area of international significance. Vast beds of wild celery and robust stands of bulrush, combined with a seemingly endless prairie around Heron Lake to support an awe inspiring number of colonial water birds and migratory waterfowl. Protection and preservation of wetland and prairie habitat is critical to both wildlife and water storage & quality within the Heron Lake watershed.
The Minnesota Land Trust is seeking willing private landowners to participate in protecting this important habitat through permanent conservation easements on their land. Properties will be chosen from submitted applications. Selection will be based on property size, habitat quality, landscape context, and the landowner’s bid price per acre.
This page will help you decide if this program is right for you. Below is information about the program, conservation easements, project selection criteria, and an application.
- Protect Minnesota’s important wildlife habitat,water quality, and beautiful open spaces
- Preserve your family’s legacy on the land
- Join a community of dedicated landowners who steward over 70,000 acres of important Minnesota places
- Receive tax incentives or other compensation for a permanent conservation easement on your property
- Receive a free habitat management plan,with the potential for financial and technical land management assistance
What is a Conservation Easement?
The Minnesota Land Trust is seeking landowners interested in securing a lasting legacy for their lands through conservation easements.
Conservation easements are voluntary agreements through which landowners agree to limit the future use and development of their property to permanently preserve its natural features.
Lands protected by a conservation easement remain in a landowner’s private ownership, with the landowner retaining the right to use and manage the land in line with the terms of the easement. Public access is not required.
When the land is transferred to a new owner, the easement stays with the land ensuring it is permanently preserved for generations to come.
Each conservation easement completed by the Minnesota Land Trust is individually crafted to reflect the special characteristics of the land and its uses. However, certain restrictions are required to protect the natural habitat and associated species.
Easement Value and Compensation
On your application to the Heron Lake Area Protection Program, you must specify a desired payment amount per acre. The amount you choose may affect whether your project is ranked and if it is ultimately chosen.
Applications to the program will be ranked on both the ecological value of the land to be protected and the payment amount desired. Indicating a lower desired payment per acre may result in a higher application rank. The Land Trust will evaluate all applications received and make selections from them.
If your application is selected, the Land Trust will use a certified appraiser to ascertain the value of the proposed conservation easement. This is done by determining the value of your land without the easement, and then the value of your land with the easement in place. The difference between the two is the easement value. The easement value ultimately stems from the property rights that have been restricted and the appraised value of those rights.
Upon finalizing the conservation easement, you would then receive a one-time payment for the amount indicated on this application, up to 100% of the appraised easement value. The Land Trust cannot pay more than the appraised value of the conservation easement.
The Minnesota Land Trust is a nonprofit organization and the donation of all or a part of a conservation easement may allow the landowner to claim a tax deduction. Please consult your attorney.
Requirements to apply
- Be located within the Heron Lake program area (see map). If uncertain, please contact Nick Bancks.
- Be at least 20 acres in size
- Contain less than 20% of proposed easement area in cultivation or have the potential to restore currently cultivated land (in excess of 20%) to native vegetation.
Applications will be reviewed, ranked, and prioritized in two rounds. Deadlines for consideration are January 31, 2021, and March 31, 2021. Funds are limited.
Applications received after the deadline may not be reviewed for the current phase of this program, but may be considered later if funding is available.
Projects that are the best fit for the Heron Lake Area Protection Program will be larger in size and will have high quality natural lands or significant restoration potential, with little development.
Landowners must indicate their desired compensation—payment per acre—for the easement on their application. Please note that the Land Trust cannot pay more than the full appraised value of the easement.
The Land Trust is able to conserve more land and may prioritize your property if you opt to donate some or all of the value of the conservation easement.
Prioritization and Selection
Easements will be funded in order of assigned priority. The Land Trust will prioritize potential parcels using two sets of criteria:
- Habitat quality and quantity.
- Context relative to other natural and protected lands such as parks, wildlife refuges, etc.
- Landowner’s desired compensation on a per acre basis and willingness to donate some or all of the value of the easement.
Ready to apply? Apply online here.
Questions? Contact Land@mnland.org
Funding for this program was provided by the Outdoor Heritage Fund as recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.