One of the most important aspects of our nation is our LAND. Our beautiful farms, open spaces, and natural resources help define our “quality of life”. However, we are losing many farms to ill-planned development and losing our rural culture fast. Increasingly there are just too many houses springing up along every country road. Ever Green Team believes that conservation easements and deed restrictions are the best land protection tools available to landowners to permanently protect their land while still retaining ownership and control.
Ever Green Team works with landowners to place conservation easements or deed restrictions on their land, thereby protecting their land, enhancing the community as a whole, and helping the environment.
Conservation measures are common around our country but still slowly building momentum in more rural regions thanks to new efforts in landowner education and awareness. Basically, conservation easements and deed restrictions are a protection that a landowner places on his/her property to limit future development and subdivision. Each conservation measure is unique and reflects the good stewardship of each landowner, but all easements and deed restrictions have in common that they protect the land you love and preserve family farms, wildlife habitat, streams, open spaces, woodlands and scenic views. Conservation helps the landowner leave a legacy of good stewardship to his/her family and to the community, and also landowners may realize a significant financial compensation for an easement through tax deductions and/or tax credit sales. Deed restrictions are very similar to conservation easements but usually are oriented towards smaller acreage properties and are not submitted to the IRS for tax benefits.
Virginia, and more recently southern Virginia, is losing many farms and open spaces to increases in population and sprawl at an alarming rate. Put simply, many regions are losing their rural culture fast. The Ever Green Team believes that conservation easements are the best land protection tool available to landowners to permanently protect their land while still retaining ownership. Conservation easements are not for everyone, but in many cases, they are a win-win situation for the landowner and the community. They help the landowner leave a legacy of good stewardship to his/her family and to the community, and also landowners may realize a significant financial compensation for their easement.
A conservation easement is a protection that a landowner places on his/her property to limit future development and subdivision. Each easement is unique and reflects the good stewardship of each landowner, but all easements have in common that they protect the land you love, preserving family farms, wildlife habitat, streams, open space, woodlands and scenic views. If neighbors see the advantages of donating an easement, they may do the same hence leading to the protection of larger landscapes in your community. What a great tool to protect our land and our rural southern Virginia heritage!
The below questions and answers further explain conservation easements, and these were taken from the Conservation Partners, LLC website at www.conservationpartnersllc.com. Conservation Partners LLC is a knowledgeable resource and is one of many terrific organizations that help landowners donate conservation easements.
Why do people donate easements?
You donate an easement if you love your land and want to permanently protect the things you love about it, such as its scenic beauty, wildlife habitat, historic integrity or its ability to provide a farming or forestry livelihood. An easement donor is basically making a charitable donation in the form of certain valuable use and development restrictions. Those restrictions are perpetual and generally reduce the market value of the land being protected. Thus, in most cases, an easement donor is making a genuine and usually economic sacrifice. But, it’s probably not going to feel like you’re giving up much because you are giving up something that you didn’t really want anyway- the right to damage what is special about your land.
Who is “the holder of the easement”?
Certain government agencies and private organizations, commonly known as “land trusts”, hold conservations easements in Virginia. The holder of your easement is responsible for enforcing the restrictions set forth in the easement. As the landowner, you remain responsible for its care and management. The easement holder will inspect the land about once a year and is available for consultation to make sure the use of the land is consistent with the terms of the easement.
Why do easement holders want to acquire easements, and why do donors get tax benefits?
The whole system supporting conservation easements- from the laws authorizing their creation and enforcement, to the formation of agencies and nonprofits to hold them, to the provision of financial incentives for landowners- exists because properly-drafted easements protecting land with important conservation attributes can be extremely valuable to the general public. Much of the undeveloped, private land in this country is providing significant benefits to the public in the form of agriculture, forestry, clean water, scenic views, wildlife habitat, and so on- benefits that would be lost if the land were developed. The federal government and many state governments offer income and estate tax incentives that reward-and partially compensate-donors of qualifying conservation easements for their economic sacrifice. By offering these benefits, the government is offering to share with landowners the costs associated with permanently protecting the important conservation values of their land.
Is it a lot of trouble to donate an easement?
Granting a conservation easement is one of the most consequential things a landowner can do, and it should be taken seriously and done correctly. Doing everything right can take a while, from several months to more than a year depending upon the complexity of the easement. But it’s worth it, and the process actually can be enjoyable if you work with the right people. You absolutely will need a good attorney and appraiser who are experienced with conservation easements, and of course you will want to choose your easement holder very carefully. In addition, working with an experienced consultant can help smooth the process significantly.
What tax benefits are available for easement donors?
We firmly believe that an easement donation works best if the donor is concerned primarily with protecting his or her land development, and he or she should look to the tax incentives as a way of partially offsetting the cost of that protection. That said, an easement donor can potentially benefit from various federal and state income and estate tax incentives. The following is a list of some of the more important tax benefits available to donors of easements that qualify under applicable law: federal charitable income tax deduction, basic estate and gift tax benefit, additional state tax exclusions, Virginia land preservation income tax credit, and possibly local tax benefits.