Landowners have a deep connection to their land and know the gifts that undeveloped properties provide their communities: clean water, fresh food, wildlife habitat, and places to connect with nature. Triangle Land Conservancy, the local land trust for North Carolina’s Triangle region, helps landowners conserve their land forever, making sure their land will always provide our community with these benefits.
What does a land trust do?
Land trusts protect land directly by buying or accepting donations of land or of conservation easements. They educate the public and advocate for the need to conserve land. They can help landowners tailor a conservation plan to their individual situation and financial circumstances, as well as determine the property’s conservation values and future ownership.
Triangle Land Conservancy concentrates its conservation efforts on:
• Natural habitat for wildlife, fish, and plants, such as prairies, forests, bluff lands, or wetlands
• Land that cleans water on its way to our water faucets, like lakeshores, rivers, streams, and other natural features
• Places to connect people with nature
• Working landscapes like farmland and ranchland that ensure the Triangle will be able to grow local food in the future
How does a land trust conserve land?
Land trusts have many options when it comes to conserving land. Two of the most popular options are fee simple and conservation easements.
A land trust can conserve land through an outright purchase or donation, in which the landowner sells or grants all rights, title and interest in the property to the land trust. The land trust owns this land, maintaining perpetual stewardship and management responsibility. It may grant conservation easements on land it owns in fee to another conservation organization, agency or town.
A conservation easement (or conservation restriction) is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. This allows the landowner to continue to own and use the land, as well as sell or pass it on to heirs.
A landowner may sell a conservation easement, but usually easements are donated. If the donation benefits the public by permanently protecting important conservation resources and meets other federal tax code requirements, it can qualify as a tax-deductible charitable donation. The amount of the donation is the difference between the land’s value with the easement and its value without the easement. Placing an easement on property may or may not result in property tax savings.
Perhaps most importantly, a conservation easement can be essential for passing land on to the next generation. By removing the land’s development potential, the easement lowers its market value, which in turn lowers estate tax. Whether the easement is donated during life or by will, it can make a critical difference in the heirs’ ability to keep the land intact.
The land trust is responsible for enforcing the restrictions detailed in the easement document. 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.
What are some of the other methods land trusts use to protect land?
Rights of First Refusal
Conservation Buyer Program
What are the advantages of working with a land trust?
Land trusts have many advantages as land protection organizations. One advantage of working with land trusts is that they are very closely tied to the communities in which they operate. They can draw on community resources, including volunteer time and skills. A land trust's community orientation is also helpful in selecting and negotiating transactions. They are familiar with the land in the area and often have the trust and confidence of local landowners who may not want to work with entities from outside the area.
Moreover, the nonprofit tax status of land trusts brings a variety of tax benefits. Donations of land, conservation easements or money may qualify for income, estate or gift tax savings. Properly structured land trusts are exempt from federal and state income taxes--and sometimes from local property and real estate transfer taxes, as well.
Because land trusts are private organizations, they can be more flexible and creative than public or government agencies, often acting more quickly. They can hold and manage land and other assets as a corporation and are able to negotiate with landowners discreetly.
More information can be found in the Land Trust Alliance fact sheet
If you would like to talk to Triangle Land Conservancy about protecting your land, give us a call at 919-833-3662 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Katherine Vance
"All I want is to sit on my porch and see tomorrow what I see today...and I want my grandchildren to see it too."