Land Trusts are non-profit community-based organizations that work to permanently preserve land that has critical natural habitat, recreational, scenic, agricultural or other conservation value. Land Trusts are funded largely through membership dues and contributions from individuals, businesses, and foundations, along with government grants.
Today, there are 1,700 land trusts that have more than 100,000 volunteers and 2 million members. So far, land trusts have conserved 37 million acres of land in America – an area roughly the size of all the New England states combined. For a comprehensive list of Land Trusts, see the Land Trust Alliance web site.
How do Land Trusts do their work? Land Trusts work with landowners and the community to conserve land by accepting donations of land, purchasing land, negotiating private, voluntary conservation agreements on land, and stewarding and restoring land that has been preserved.
OPTIONS FOR PRESERVING LAND
Land Donation: Donating land for conservation is a wonderful way to share its beauty and one of the finest legacies a person can leave to future generations. The land trust can work with the donor to identify the best donation arrangement to meet their objectives. A land donation can even be set up in a way that allows one to continue to live on the land or to receive a life income. The full market value of land donated to a nonprofit land trust is tax deductible as a charitable gift.
Bargain Sale of Land: Selling land for less than fair market value can make it affordable for the land trust and provide tax benefits for the landowner. It provides the seller with cash plus entitles them to a charitable tax deduction based on the difference between the land’s fair market value and its sale price.
Conservation Easement: This is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently protects land while the landowner continues to own it. Usually it involves a deed restriction that limits development rights or limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. It allows landowners to continue to own and use their land, and they can also sell it or pass it on to heirs. Donating a conservation easement can result in substantial tax deductions.