What is Conservation Easement

A Conservation easement is a legal agreement between you, the landowner, and a conservation organization such as the Greater Lovell Land Trust. This agreement separates the rights to exercise more intensive uses of your land, such as construction, subdividing into lots or other development, from other rights of ownership. Envision as an owner you hold rights similar to a handful of straws. Each straw represents a right of ownership. An easement is the transferring of some of the straws to the land trust to hold in perpetuity. Development rights can be transferred from you to the GLLT through a conservation easement. The GLLT agrees to hold, but not exercise the development rights and to monitor the use of the land to ensure they are never used by anyone else.Your land does not have to be spectacular, unusual, pristine or large to qualify for a conservation easement. But the property under easement must have conservation value that needs to be preserved.

Your property does not have to be spectacular, unusual, pristine or large to qualify for a conservation easement. But the property under easement must have conservation value that needs to be preserved.

There are many different types of land and natural resources in the Kezar Lake, Kezar River and Cold River Watersheds. Easements donated to GLLT are rich and diverse, for example: waterfront property including an undeveloped cove that serves as habitat for fish and waterfowl; a woodland that will remain in its natural condition as a haven for wildlife and a wooded scenic vista for the public; wooded “back land” from the lakefront that will continue to protect the water quality of our water bodies; farmland that will remain as productive farmland forever.

Your Rights As a Conservation Easement Donor:

  •     The right of retaining ownership of your property
  •     The right to sell it
  •     The right to restrict public access
  •     The right to reserve certain uses on the whole or part of your property
  •     The right to give it or bequeath it to whomever you choose.

Most or all rights to develop are restricted or eliminated in order to preserve the special environmental value. However, it depends on what you wish to preserve and how you and your family wish to use your land in the future. You may want to reserve the right to build trails in a wooded area; to construct a barn, a wood shed, a garage; to reserve a portion for an additional house lot; to allow snowmobiles, but not ATVs. These are all examples of terms that have been written in easements held by the GLLT.

As a 501(3)c non-profit organization, the GLLT is uniquely qualified to accept donations of conservation easements as a charitable gift.

A Conservation Easement is Appealing Because…

  •     It is voluntary.
  •     You elect to donate an easement.
  •     It is flexible.
  •     Each easement is tailored to fit your needs and wishes and the goals of the GLLT.
  •     It is efficient.
  •     It is a private agreement that applies to all present and future owners of your land.
  •     It can save you money.
  •     It offers income tax, capital gains and estate tax savings if certain conditions are met.

Receiving a donated conservation easement is more economical for the GLLT than purchasing the property. The cost of maintaining the land and the benefits of its continued use remain with you as landowner.

Interest in conservation easements has grown with the increase in property values, resulting in an increased tax burden. Some landowners may have to sell or subdivide their land to pay the taxes. Estate taxes, too, can be of particular concern. Heirs have been forced to sell land that has been in the family for years, even generations, in order to pay the inheritance taxes required. Conservation easements are a strategic way to help many landowners preserve their property intact.

In order for you to enjoy the tax benefits of a donated conservation easement, you must obtain a “qualified appraisal” from a certified appraiser. To determine the easement value, the land is appraised at its fair market value without the easement, and its fair market value with the easement restrictions. The difference between the two appraisals is the easement value, from which the tax deductions are derived.

Expenses incurred in processing an easement are usually tax deductible.

To qualify for a tax deduction, the conservation easement must satisfy the following:

  •     Granted in perpetuity
  •     Given to a qualified organization such as a land trust
  •     Given exclusively for conservation purposes.

Income and estate taxes are complicated, frequently revised, and a matter of individual circumstances. The GLLT does not advise landowners other than to recommend they seek assistance from their own professional advisors.

Accepting the donation of a conservation easement is a tremendous responsibility for the GLLT. It means that we accept the obligation of monitoring and enforcing the easement terms in perpetuity. Once an easement is established, the GLLT documents the site’s conservation values. The GLLT Land Monitoring & Stewardship Committee annually inspects the easements to ensure the terms and conditions you established are being honored.

The GLLT becomes your “partner” in protecting your land and your wishes. Our obligation to the easement remains even upon transfer of the property to new owners. We become your eyes into the future because we are an organization dedicated to the principles of saving precious resources in the Kezar Lake, Kezar River and Cold River Watersheds.