What are the benefits of donating a conservation easement, including tax advantages?

A gift of conservation easement frequently benefits a landowner by permanently protecting the important conservation qualities of the property without the landowner having to give up ownership, and by creating immediate tax advantages. With the help of the Feather River Land Trust, a landowner can both protect an individual piece of land and add to the growing landscape of private lands that have been protected in this manner and that will be carefully stewarded by the FRLT forever.The two main tax benefits associated with a donated conservation easement are income tax benefits and estate tax benefits. An independent appraisal of the value of the easement determines the extent of the tax benefits. Donors who have given easements that qualify as tax-deductible may receive an income tax deduction, which may be used within a six-year period, and a reduction in the value of the estate. There are further benefits associated with donating a conservation easement. Please contact the Feather River Land Trust office for more information or visit the Land Trust Alliance’s website for more resources for landowners.

 

What type of property is appropriate for protection with a Feather River Land Trust conservation easement?

Each property is evaluated individually after careful investigation of its resources and qualities. Depending on the property, sometimes one factor alone is enough to merit protection, other times several factors combine to make the property important to preserve. Generally, a property is a good candidate for protection with a Feather River Land Trust conservation easement if it meets the following guidelines:

  • Conservation of the property is consistent with the mission of FRLT and the property is within the Feather River Watershed;
  • Conservation of the property clearly provides a significant public benefit in one or more of the following categories: natural, cultural/historical, educational, scenic/open space, and recreational. Each of these categories has its own criteria.
  • The land is of sufficient size that its conservation resources are likely to remain intact, even if adjacent properties are developed;
  • The land contains resources unique to and characteristic of the Feather River Watershed and meets other criteria in our feasibility checklists.
  • There is funding available for acquisition of the property and the stewardship costs; and
  • FRLT has the resources to fulfill any and all stewardship responsibilities associated with the property.

 

How does the Feather River Land Trust steward its conservation easements?

The Feather River Land Trust operates its easement stewardship program in accordance with the Land Trust Alliance's Standards and Practices. To that end, we monitor each conservation property at least annually to ensure that the terms of the conservation easement are being met. If a violation of an easement is discovered, it is the Trust's legal and moral obligation to ensure that the violation is rectified. We haven't had any easement violations to date. However, we're prepared to defend all of our easements should a major violation or legal challenge occur.

 

Is public access allowed on any of the property that is protected by the Feather River Land Trust?

Yes, the Feather River Land Trust invites community access on the three properties we own. The properties protected with our conservation easements remain in private ownership, which means public access is generally restricted. However, we offer guided tours of easement properties on a periodic basis.

 

What is the economic impact of land protection on an area?

Saving land saves money. While community residences often require expensive public services and infrastructure, privately owned working lands enhance community character and quality of life without requiring significant public expenditures. As of January 2002, 83 Cost of Community Services (COCS) studies conducted in 19 states found that tax and other revenues collected from farm, ranch and forest landowners more than covered the public service costs these lands incur. COCS studies also show that, on average, residential development generates significant tax revenue but requires costly public services that typically are subsidized by revenues from commercial and industrial land uses, including farms and ranches.Well-managed farm and ranch lands also offer food and cover for wildlife, control floods, protect watersheds and maintain air quality. Protected open space can also provide significant recreational opportunities for the public, resulting in increased revenue for communities near or adjacent to the recreational opportunities.*

*Cost of Community Services Studies: Making the Case for Conservation, 2002, American Farmland Trust. For copies of this report, call 800-370-4879.

 

Interested in learning more?

The Feather River Land Trust is a member of the Land Trust Alliance, a national organization working with more than 1,700 land trusts to promote voluntary private land conservation to benefit communities and natural systems.

The Land Trust Alliance offers in-depth information on conservation easements and steps landowners and communities can take to protect publicly important places. Explore LTA’s publications for landowners.