Conserving Family and Community Lands
The Lakes Region Conservation Trust works with landowners and local volunteers to protect land with significant conservation value. As described below, LRCT utilizes a variety of protection methods to achieve its conservation goals. Prior to LRCT’s approval of a land conservation project, each project is reviewed by LRCT staff and evaluated by LRCT’s Lands Committee to determine whether the proposed project is consistent with LRCT’s conservation priorities.
Landowners and community residents who are interested in exploring land conservation options with LRCT are encouraged to complete and submit the LRCT Land Conservation Inquiry Form and to contact LRCT if they wish to discuss the potential for initiating a land protection project.
In donating land to LRCT, the donor relinquishes title and ownership of the land. Land donors may realize significant tax advantages in return for their generosity. Land donations may be made in a variety of ways, including:
- Standard Fee Simple Donation: The donor relinquishes full title and ownership of the land at the time of the gift. No rights are retained.
- Donation of Remainder Interest/Reservation of Life Tenancy: The donor conveys title to the land to LRCT but retains use of the property for him/herself and/or other designated persons during said person(s) lifetime(s).
- Bequest of Land: The donor bequeaths the land to LRCT, removing it from the donor’s estate at the time of death. The donor retains all rights to the land during his or her lifetime.
Conservation Easement Donation
A conservation easement is legal document, recorded at the registry of deeds, which specifies limitations on the future use of the property. In donating a conservation easement, the landowner retains title to and use of the land, with the exception of those rights that are relinquished or restricted under the easement, such as the right to develop or subdivide the property.
A conservation easement is permanent and legally binding on the current owner as well as all future owners of the land. Provided that the conservation easement meets certain requirements, a gift of a conservation easement may result in tax advantages for the donor.
Bargain Sale of Land or Conservation Easement
A bargain sale is a sale of land or a conservation easement to LRCT at a price less than its value. In some circumstances, LRCT will consider purchasing land or a conservation easement at a bargain sale price if a donation is not an option. Before deciding to purchase land or a conservation easement, LRCT would have to establish both the significant conservation value of the property and the feasibility of raising the funds needed for the purchase. A bargain sale may have certain tax advantages for a landowner.
Sale of Land or Conservation Easement
In special circumstances, LRCT will consider purchasing land or a conservation easement at a price equal to its value if donation of the land or easement is not an option. Before deciding to purchase land or a conservation easement, LRCT would have to establish both the significant conservation value of the property and the feasibility of raising the funds needed for the purchase.
Stewardship Responsibilities and Funding
With all land conservation options, securing funding for LRCT’s long-term stewardship responsibilities is an essential part of the project and critical to ensure fulfillment of the landowner’s and LRCT’s conservation goals.
If LRCT would become owner of the land, LRCT must consider the availability of funding for stewardship, including regular monitoring, maintenance, and management of the land, its boundaries, and any trails or other improvements. If LRCT would become holder of a conservation easement, it would be legally obligated to monitor the land regularly and take necessary action to ensure compliance with the easement terms; consequently, LRCT must consider the availability of funding for fulfilling these easement responsibilities. Depending upon the particular project, potential sources of stewardship funds may include the landowner, interested members of the community, grant-making entities, and/or donors to a fundraising campaign for the project.
As noted above, certain land conservation transactions may provide tax benefits for the landowner. A landowner’s financial advisor and/or attorney can best determine the merits and consequences of the various land protection options given the landowner’s particular situation.
The Lakes Region Conservation Trust advises you to consult such a professional prior to making decisions regarding your land. You can find additional information about tax benefits here.