By Ben Bogardus, Land Specialist
Altamont Property Group
Conservation easements are voluntary agreements that permanently restrict land use to protect conservation value.
The main benefits, apart from keeping our mountainsides beautiful, are tax deductions. By conserving part or all of a tract, the land owner may deduct the value of the land if it was developed from their income tax – 50% of their income per year for up to 16 years.
On the other side, conservation easements restrict what can be built, mining/timbering rights, and subdivisions, all of which can make the property more difficult to sell. These restrictions ‘run with the land’ and are passed on to future owners in the chain of title. Owners should seriously consider how they plan to use land now and into the future before committing.
There are many ways to structure a conservation easement and tailor it to an individual owners’ needs. For example, on a 50-acre tract the owner could limit construction to one residence of a certain square footage and only allow trees to be cut for that residence. Another approach is to subdivide out a parcel for building and put the rest of the tract in conservation. Since value increases if a parcel is adjacent to conserved land, this could lead to increased value for the unrestricted parcel in the future.
Conservation easements are mostly administered by local non-profit land trusts. A land trust may even pay for an easement if the land has high conservation value – contains rare species or habitat, is contiguous with existing conserved land, etc.
Not all land trusts are created equal. Make sure to speak with a legal professional about which land trust to go with and how to structure the easements. An attorney can help make sure your land qualifies and negotiate favorable terms.
Conservation easements can be a smart financial strategy for landowners as well as a way to keep our mountainsides beautiful! To talk more about conservation easements, please reach out to us!