Real Estate

Conservation Easements

Conservation easements have become an increasingly popular legal tool for preserving scenic land, historic sites, and other cultural resources. Perpetual easements donated to qualified organizations offer protection for these privately owned sites and create tax savings for the donors.

As the idea of using easements to protect land has grown, Stites & Harbison has earned a reputation as a go-to law firm for major conservation easements in Kentucky and Tennessee. The firm's attorneys have been front-and-center on dozens of major, record-breaking gifts, consulted on complex transactions, and invited to speak and publish on the sophisticated legal issues surrounding conservation easements.

In Tennessee, Stites & Harbison has been selected as Counsel to the Land Trust for Tennessee, a nonprofit group formed for the purpose of forever preserving farmland and open and scenic spaces in Tennessee. Working with Stites & Harbison, the Land Trust for Tennessee has accepted easements on more than 75,000 acres of land.

In Kentucky, Stites & Harbison has been counsel for River Fields, Inc., a Louisville-area land trust. The firm has drafted or negotiated numerous major easement agreements for River Fields, including the largest gift ever made in Kentucky in terms of donated value.

Stites & Harbison has also reviewed numerous easement agreements for Bluegrass Conservancy, a private land trust committed to permanently protecting the natural diversity, scenic open space, rural heritage, and agricultural vitality of Kentucky’s Bluegrass region. Stites & Harbison’s work with Bluegrass Conservancy has included the conservation easement granted by former Kentucky Governor Brereton Jones and his wife, Libby Jones, which protects the 236-acre Aidrie Stud farm in Woodford County, Kentucky. In 2009, the firm helped Bluegrass Conservancy reach the significant milestone of holding conservation easements on more than 10,000 acres of prime bluegrass farmlands.

Several of the firm's attorneys have written or presented papers on easements or related subjects. Bruce Reynolds and Stephen M. Ruschell—two of the firm's Lexington-based attorneys—wrote “Conservation Easements and Their Qualifications for Tax Benefits,” which was published in the July 2001 edition of the Kentucky Bar Association’s Bench & Bar. Our real estate attorneys frequently write and speak on conservation easements for landowners, attorneys, appraisers, and other professionals interested in supporting this means of protecting open space for future generations.

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