Conservation Easements Defined
What is a Conservation Easement?
The donor, in collaboration with a conservation organization, will design an easement that best works for both parties involved. It typically restricts future development rights and certain uses of the property. The right to develop is a limited, though, valuable portion of the entire bundle of rights that is commonly associated with land ownership.
The landowner relinquishes these specific rights in order to protect the “conservation values” of the property in perpetuity by donating these rights. Typically these rights are donated to qualified non-profit organizations like Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy or to a local Land Trust, such as the Lowcountry Land Trust in our area. These organizations “hold” the easement, and more particularly the specific rights that have been donated, and conduct annual visits to monitor the land to ensure that the stipulations of the easement are being followed, and that the land and its associated conservation values are being protected. As mentioned, these restrictions run with the land in perpetuity.
What are the Benefits?
Growing timber, hunting, shooting sports, farming, and the construction of permanent residences, outbuildings, pools and ponds are all usually allowable practices. The most important benefit for many landowners is the assurance of the protection of the property in its natural state for generations to come.
Will a Conservation Easement affect the marketability of my property?
What makes a property a candidate for a Conservation Easement?
A good conservation candidate may come from varying types of properties and usage types, we would be happy to consult with interested landowners to help determine if their property is a viable candidate.
How are Easement Values determined?
The fair market value of the land before the easement and the value after the easement is in place is called the “diminution value”, which is typically considered a charitable donation by the IRS. Generally, this value can be used to offset federal income taxes over 15 years, and can effectively lower an owner’s basis in the property.