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Everyone has a role in on-going preservation through collaborative efforts with cooperative agencies and organizations, landowners with a stewardship ethic, supportive descendant groups, and a public who values that knowing the past can help shape a better future for all.

In 2002, the Iowa Legislature modified Section 457a of the Iowa Code, adding the University of Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist (OSA) to an expanded list of authorized easement holders. “Cultural resources” were added to the list of qualifying attributes that may be preserved through conservation easements. Of special importance, the changes also mandated perpetual enforcement and clarified that “cultural resources” includes archaeological and historical sites. In this way, conservation easements became a new and powerful preservation tool, far more effective than previously available easements, which legally expired after just 21 years. Under the perpetual enforcement provision, a landowner may now voluntarily care for and protect archaeological sites on their property--not just during the duration of their ownership but as a forever legacy. This is because a conservation easement is a legal agreement recorded with the county and is permanently attached to a parcel deed. Because of this, a current landowner can guarantee the future preservation of an archaeological site, even after physical control passes to subsequent owners.


Conservation easements are by definition flexible; in all cases, the land remains in private ownership. OSA works with private and public landowners to establish conservation easements, assisting to create “win-win” arrangements that allow, for example, certain farming, recreational, or business activities on a parcel that don’t adversely impact archaeological deposits while limiting or prohibiting other activities that would have a detrimental effect. Identifying compatible use options for properties containing important archaeological sites is most successful when archaeologists and landowners cooperatively work together to delineate the activities and land management practices most important to the landowner and assess how these may impact any archaeological sites on the property. The long-term responsibility of the OSA is annual monitoring to ensure that easement conditions are achieved.

Conservation Easements: An Important Preservation Tool for Iowa

Fees for Conservation Easements

service fee
In perpetuity monitoring, suitable as mitigation solution Typically, one-time $5,000 to $40,000 per easement fee depending on area, location, and nature of cultural resource(s). Fee waiver possible, call to discuss.


For more information, contact:

John Doershuk headshot

John Doershuk, Ph.D., RPA

State Archaeologist