Protect Your Land

If you are interested in protecting your land with a conservation agreement, this preliminary information will help you get started:

A landowner and qualified conservation organization or government body may enter into a conservation agreement that permanently limits a property’s uses for the purpose of preserving conservation values such as recreation, scenic beauty, wildlife habitat or water quality. The Coastal Land Trust is qualified to accept and hold conservation agreements.
Conservation agreements are a flexible option for landowners interested in protecting their land from development because an agreement can cover all or part of a property and may be tailored to needs of the owner and Coastal Land Trust. Some limited development may be allowed on a conservation agreement. Further, depending on the particular attributes of each property, limited commercial activities are sometimes allowed, such as farming, grazing, thinning of trees and hunting. Landowners who donate conservation agreements may be rewarded in tax savings, charitable contribution deductions, income tax credits and lower property taxes.
The normal expenses to a grantor for a conservation agreement donation are the land survey, appraisal, accounting fees, legal fees for tax planning, recording fees and a stewardship endowment to assist the Coastal Land Trust with future monitoring expenses.
There are a variety of options available to landowners interested in donating conservation lands. Full donation is a simple way to proceed. Donated lands may be established as nature preserves, wildlife refuges, scientific reserves or parks.

Some landowners choose to donate a conservation agreement rather than a full donation. When a conservation agreement is made, the landowner retains ownership of property, but gives up some ownership rights, such as the ability to develop. These lands may still be sold, or passed on by will, while retaining the conservation agreement in perpetuity.

Further, a landowner may choose to donate property by will. If interested in this option, a donor should ensure that the Coastal Land Trust is willing and able to accept the gift. This kind of donation will reduce estate taxes, but will not reduce income or property taxes.

Donations of property and donations of conservation agreements that meet federal and state tax code requirements may qualify as tax-deductible charitable donations. To make a conservation agreement donation all owners of a property must agree to donate.

Another option open to landowners is a bargain sale of property. A bargain sale is when property is sold to a conservation organization such as the Coastal Land Trust or a public agency for less than full market value. Benefits to landowners who choose to do bargain sales include receiving immediate cash and the benefit of a charitable income tax deduction based on the difference between a property’s fair market value and the bargain sale price.
The IRS allows federal tax benefits to landowners who donate conservation agreements on properties with exceptional land resources or historic landmarks of great public value. In addition, the conservation agreement must be perpetual, made to a qualified donee, such as the Coastal Land Trust, and meet one or more of the following four conservation purposes:

  • Preservation of land for public outdoor recreation or education;
  • Protection of relatively natural habitats for fish, wildlife, plants;
  • Preservation of open space, including farm and forest land, according to clearly delineated government conservation policy;
  • Preservation of historically important lands and buildings, including those listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A donor of a qualified conservation agreement may claim its value, determined by a qualified appraisal, as a deduction for income, gift and estate tax purposes. Landowners should consult with their tax advisors for guidance on this issue.

Corporations are subject to special tax laws that differ from individuals. Corporate counsel should always be consulted to evaluate any proposed donations. Further, if land is held in partnership, trust, Limited Liability Company or other entity, an attorney and accountant should be consulted to evaluate the potential tax benefits of a donation. Real estate companies, in particular, may be subject to additional issues related to a conservation gift, and should consult their advisors very early in the planning process for any development project.
The Coastal Land Trust utilizes many sources of private and public funding for purchasing land as well as funding conservation agreements. Applying for public monies is a complex and competitive process. The Coastal Land Trust, however, has an excellent record of receiving targeted grants.

Landowners interested in conservation can apply directly to state and federal sources for funds to help implement conservation measures on their lands. Local Soil & Water Conservation District offices can provide more information. Please see The North Carolina Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts website for more information and a list of Soil and Water Conservation Districts with phone numbers at http://www.ncaswcd.org/

Give us a call to discuss the options available to protect YOUR land:

Contact Janice Allen, Deputy Director of the Coastal Land Trust at 252-634-1927 or email her here.

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