Information For Landowners
Land trusts are a way for landowners to set restrictions on the future use of their land. A landowner may want to restrict use of the land to logging or cattle grazing, may want to preserve land as a wilderness or public recreation area, or some other arrangement. Alternatively, a landowner may decide to outright donate their land to a land trust if he or she believes in the mission of such an organization.
There are Many Reasons a Landowner Would Make This Choice
Some do it because they value the natural landscape and want future generations to see trees instead of apartment complexes. Some do it to garner tax breaks and keep the property in the family, even if the land no longer generates enough cash to cover property taxes. There are many reasons to consider using a land trust.
Working with Payette Land Trust
When a landowner chooses to conserve their land, PLT will guide them through the legal process and oversee the easement in perpetuity. PLT assists landowners with all phases of the conservation easement process.
After a conservation easement is completed and recorded, the Land Trust is the entity responsible for monitoring and enforcing the restrictions the landowner chooses to place on the land. Ultimately the Land Trust is responsible for ensuring the terms of the conservation easement are upheld in perpetuity.
We can help you to discover what options are available for your land.
Simply Put, Payette Land Trust
- Helps landowners consider their options.
- Informs landowners as to tax benefits of creating an easement or donating land.
- Manages easements and land in accordance with the terms set by landowners.
- Uses donated land in alignment with local conservation and recreation goals of the community.
- Raises funds to support administration of all of the above.
Conservation Easements FAQs
Why Should I Grant a Conservation Easement to a Land Trust?
People execute a conservation easement because they love their open space land and want to protect their land from inappropriate development while keeping their private ownership of the property. Granting an easement to a conservation organization that qualifies under the Internal Revenue Code as a “public charity” – which nearly all land trusts do – can yield income and estate tax savings. Moreover, land trusts, some of which are more than 100 years old, have the expertise and experience to work with landowners and ensure that the land will remain as a permanent open space.
Are Conservation Easements Popular?
They are very popular. In the 5 years between 1998 and 2003, the amount of land protected by local and regional land trusts using easements tripled to 5 million acres. Landowners have found that conservation easements can be flexible tools, and yet provide a permanent guarantee that the land won’t ever be developed. Conservation easements are used to protect all types of land, including coastlines; farm and ranch land; historical or cultural landscapes; scenic views; streams and rivers; trails; wetlands; wildlife areas; and working forests.
How can a Conservation Easement be Tailored to my Needs and Desires?
An easement restricts development to the degree that is necessary to protect the significant conservation values of that particular property. Sometimes this totally prohibits construction, and sometimes it doesn’t. Landowners and land trusts, working together, can write conservation easements that reflect both the landowner’s desires and the need to protect conservation values. Even the most restrictive easements typically permit landowners to continue such traditional uses of the land as farming and ranching.
What Steps do I Take to Write a Conservation Easement?
First, contact a land trust in your community to become acquainted with the organization and the services they can provide. Explore with them the conservation values you want to protect on the land. Discuss with the land trust what you want to accomplish, and what development rights you may want to retain. For example, you may already have one home on your property and want to preserve the right to build another home. That is one provision that must be specifically written into an easement agreement. Always consult with other family members regarding an easement, and remember that you should consult with your own attorney or financial advisor regarding such a substantial decision.
How Long Does a Conservation Easement Last?
Most easements “run with the land,” binding the original owner and all subsequent owners to the easement’s restrictions. Only gifts of perpetual easements can qualify for income and estate tax benefits. The easement is recorded at the county or town records office so that all future owners and lenders will learn about the restrictions when they obtain title reports.
What are a Land Trust's Responsiblities Regarding Conservation Easements?
The land trust is responsible for enforcing the restrictions that the easement document spells out. Therefore, the land trust monitors the property on a regular basis — typically once a year – to determine that the property remains in the condition prescribed by the easement document. The land trust maintains written records of these monitoring visits, which also provide the landowner a chance to keep in touch with the land trust. Many land trusts establish endowments to provide for long-term stewardship of the easements they hold.
Benefits of Conservation FAQs
What are the Economic Impacts to my Community of Conserving Open Space?
Many reports have shown that conserving open space in communities around the U.S. attracts jobs, enhances property values, and saves billions in government costs. Read more about these studies.
Are There Tax Benefits Associated with Land Protection?
There may be income, estate, and property tax benefits for donating your land, donating a conservation easement, or selling the property as a “bargain sale” at below market value. The amount and type of tax benefits depends on a variety of factors, including the legal tool you’ve used to protect you land, the value of the donation, your income level and the total amount of your estate. Again, you should consult with a financial advisor and/or an attorney to fully understand the tax implications.
What is an Example of the Financial Benefit that the Permanent Tax Incentive Provides a Landowner?
Currently, a landowner earning $50,000 a year who donated $1million conservation easement can deduct $25,000 (50% of income) for the year of the donation and for each of an additional 15 years. This would result in a total of $400,000 in deductions. If the landowner is a farmer or rancher, they can deduct $50,000 (100% of income) in the first year and then for each of the following 15 years, realizing a maximum of $800,000 in deductions.