With it, we can:


Preserve open space


Maintain the integrity of open land easements


Acquire easements


Assist landowners with the decision-making process


Educate others to understand the value of conservation


Pass on the best of our values to the next generation



What is the history of the Sussex County Land Trust?

How does the Sussex County Land Trust protect land?

What is a conservation easement?

What are the benefits of giving a conservation easement, including tax advantages?

What type of property is appropriate for protection with a Sussex County Land Trust conservation easement?

How does the Sussex County Land Trust steward its conservation easements?



The concept of the Land Trust originated by two local developers who decided to cultivate responsibility by first, recognizing the need to plan communities using the smart growth principles of Livable Delaware. Secondly, they wanted to provide a financial means to ensure open space protection by reaching out to their peers, as a first step, to encourage them to do the same. When they realized that a local land trust that could accomplish this did not exist, they decided to start one and fund it by pledging ½ of 1% of the proceeds from every lot sale, in addition to the pledge of $250,000 over a period of five years for administrative and operating expenses.

Joined by a group of concerned citizens in December 2001, the Sussex County Land Trust was formed. With a significant, annual monetary commitment and two seats on the Board, a unique public – private partnership between Sussex County Council and the land trust evolved.

How does the Sussex County Land Trust protect land?

The Land Trust protects land in and around Sussex County through the donation of conservation easements that protect important conservation resources. The Land Trust does purchase land; we do our best to acquire critical parcels of land that are threatened when there seems to be no other option for their protection.

Our donated conservation easement program has grown significantly and continues to play an important role in our land protection efforts. Two examples of this are the Bayside Conservation Easement and the Peninsula Conservation Easement.

In addition to accepting gifts of conservation easements and purchasing property or easements for conservation, the Sussex County Land Trust is willing to accept "fee title" gifts of land — that is, gifts of all the rights to a parcel of land, including ownership. If the property has conservation value, the Trust will hold it indefinitely, lease it, or put appropriate conservation restrictions on it and sell it. If the property does not have conservation value, the Trust will eventually sell the land and put the proceeds toward further conservation work.

What is a conservation easement?

A conservation easement is a voluntary contract between a landowner and a land trust, government agency, or another qualified organization in which the owner places permanent restrictions on the future uses of some or all of his or her property to protect scenic, wildlife, or agricultural resources (conservation values.) The restrictions usually limit the number of future homesites but can, and often do, limit other uses as well. Conservation easements are specifically tailored to meet the conservation and financial/tax planning needs of each landowner; few conservation easements look alike because few properties are the same, and few landowners want exactly the same provisions. We write our conservation easements after meeting with each landowner numerous times and drafting and redrafting the document until all parties are satisfied. The easement is donated by the owner to the land trust, which then has the authority and obligation to enforce the terms of the easement in perpetuity. The landowner still owns the property and can use it, sell it, or leave it to heirs, but the restrictions of the easement stay with the land forever.

What are the benefits of giving a conservation easement, including tax advantages?

A gift of a conservation easement frequently benefits a landowner by permanently protecting the important conservation qualities of the property without the landowner having to give up ownership, and by creating immediate tax advantages. With the help of the Sussex County Land Trust, a landowner can both protect an individual piece of land and add to a growing complex of private lands that have been protected in this manner and that will be carefully stewarded by the Land Trust forever.

Easements that are permanent, donated by the landowner (or subject to a qualified bargain sale), and that conserve for the public benefit one or more of the previously described conservation values typically qualify for the tax benefits offered by the Internal Revenue Code. The two main tax benefits associated with a donated conservation easement are income tax benefits and estate tax benefits. An independent appraisal of the value of the easement determines the extent of the tax benefits. Donors who have given easements that qualify as tax-deductible may receive an income tax deduction, which may be used within a six year period, and a reduction in the value of the estate. There are further benefits associated with donating a conservation easement. Please contact the Land Trust office for more information.

What type of property is appropriate for protection with a Sussex County Land Trust conservation easement?

Each property is evaluated individually after careful investigation of its resources and qualities. Depending on the property, sometimes one factor alone is significant enough to merit protection, other times several factors combine to make the property important to preserve. Generally, a property is a good candidate for protection with a Land Trust conservation easement if the land:

  • includes important wildlife habitat or known wildlife migration routes.

  • buffers wildlife habitat, so that its protection from dense development would diminish impacts on wildlife from dogs, cars and concentration of human activities.

  • is in active agricultural use.

  • is visible from major highways, from rivers used by the public for recreation or from public-use areas.

  • is in a relatively natural, undisturbed condition.

  • shares a boundary with, or is in close proximity to, a National Forest, Park, Wildlife Refuge or other public preserve.

  • is adjacent to, or in close proximity to, private land that is already permanently protected or that is likely to be protected in the foreseeable future.

  • is situated such that its development would obstruct or diminish scenic views or would interfere with view across already protected open.

  • borders or affects the integrity of a significant water shed area.

  • is of sufficient size that its conservation resources are likely to remain intact, even if adjacent properties are developed.

How does the Sussex County Land Trust steward its conservation easements?

The Sussex County Land Trust monitors each conservation property at least annually to ensure that the terms of the conservation easement are being met. If a violation of an easement is discovered, it is the Land Trust’s legal and moral obligation to ensure that the violation is rectified. The Land Trust has had very few easement violations to date. Still, the Land Trust is prepared to defend all of its easements should a major violation or legal challenge occur. Towards this end, the Land Trust is building an endowment fund of sufficient size to ensure that it is financially capable of stewarding its easements and conservation lands in perpetuity. The Land Trust operates its easement stewardship program in accordance with the Land Trust Alliance’s Standards and Practices.

P.O. Box 763, Rehoboth Beach, DE  19971 | Phone: 302.227.0287 | Fax: 302.227.2326 | wobaker@sclandtrust.org

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