Preserving Preservation Easements?: Preservation Easements in an Uncertain Regulatory Future

91 Nebraska Law Review 121 (2012)

50 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2014

Date Written: February 3, 2014


Over the past thirty years, preservation easements have protected thousands of historic properties from insensitive alteration and even demolition. Federal tax incentives have been critical to many of these efforts – but have recently come under fire for the perception that they only serve as a lucrative tax break for wealthy urban residents. Recently, the Internal Revenue Service has responded to this criticism, and has been extremely aggressive in auditing preservation easement donations. Not surprisingly, this intense regulatory scrutiny has caused easement donations to virtually come to a halt.

To address concerns that preservation easements can no longer serve as a viable preservation tool, this Article explores a variety of ways that easement-holding organizations can improve their efforts and expand the public benefit provided by their programs. This Article also investigates how easement-holding organizations can move beyond their exclusive reliance on the federal tax deduction and find new pathways toward securing protection for historic properties. By analyzing the problems associated with traditional easement donations and offering clear ways to improve easement-holding organizations and practices, this Article offers some suggestions on how preservation easements can be transformed and remain a vital component of the preservation movement in the twenty-first century.

Keywords: Land Use Law; Preservation Easements; Historic Preservation Law

Suggested Citation

Phelps, Jess R., Preserving Preservation Easements?: Preservation Easements in an Uncertain Regulatory Future (February 3, 2014). 91 Nebraska Law Review 121 (2012). Available at SSRN:

Jess R. Phelps (Contact Author)

The Lyme Timber Company LP ( email )

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics