There are a number of options available to landowners and land trusts to protect ecologically significant land.
A conservation easement is a legal agreement that landowners can use to permanently preserve wildlife habitat, natural areas, and agricultural land. Each easement is unique and reflects the landowner’s wishes for his or her land, while protecting the land’s conservation values. It is possible to reserve the right to build a few homes, or to develop part of the land in combination with protecting other portions of the property. Future owners must abide by the terms of the conservation easement. It is Red-tail Conservancy’s job to ensure that once the land is under easement, it is regularly monitored to be sure its natural values are protected now and in the future.
A conservation easement can be an important part of estate planning. For people whose land value has soared due to development pressures, a conservation easement may mean the difference between passing on that land to their heirs or their heirs having to sell the land to pay the estate taxes. By removing or limiting the land’s development potential, the easement lowers its market value, which in turn lowers the estate tax.
Landowners should also consider donating their land to Red-tail Conservancy to preserve its natural value. Donating woodlands, wetlands, and other wildlife habitat is one of the finest legacies a person can leave to future generations. Other more immediate benefits include income tax deductions, estate tax benefits, and avoidance of capital gains taxes.
The donation of a conservation easement can qualify as a tax-deductible charitable donation for federal income tax purposes. What is deductible is the difference between the value of the land with the easement and its value without the easement. To be tax-deductible, the land must provide a public benefit such as preserving open space including agricultural and forest lands, protecting a relatively natural wildlife habitat, preserving lands for outdoor recreation or education, or preserving a land area or structure of historical importance. Federal law generally allows a maximum deduction of 30% of your Adjusted Gross Income in any given year through the donation of a conservation easement. However, you can use the 30% deduction for up to five years until the value of the contribution is used up. The law also requires that the easement be granted to a qualified organization. The Red-tail Conservancy meets the IRS requirement for such an organization. Some of the costs incurred in making a charitable contribution are themselves deductible.
Donating a Remainder Interest in Land:
Landowners who want to remain on their land can do so by donating a remainder interest to Red-tail Conservancy and reserving the right for themselves or someone else they may designate to live on the property. This is called a reserved life estate. When the landowner or those they have designated die or release their life interest, Red-tail Conservancy will have full title and control over the property.
Donating Land by Will:
If you want to own and control your land during your lifetime, but assure its protection after your death, you can donate it by will.
Purchase of Land:
Red-tail Conservancy has just a small amount of funds at this time available for purchase of land. However, in the case of land that is very ecologically significant, we stand ready to conduct fundraising campaigns to raise the funds necessary to purchase and manage properties.