P.O. Box 372
Lewes, DE 19958
Phone: 302.542.3305
Email: mark@chura-assc.com

Leave a Legacy

PROTECTING YOUR LAND THROUGH A CONSERVATION EASEMENT

WHAT IS AN EASEMENT?

A conservation easement, also called a conservation agreement, is a voluntary and legally binding agreement between a landowner and Sussex County Land Trust. When a landowner donates an easement, they are giving away some of the rights associated with the land. The easement permanently limits uses of the donated parcel in order to protect its conservation values, as specified in the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) 170(h). Conservation easements offer private landowners flexibility in protecting their land. For example, a donating landowner can retain the right to grow crops on a parcel while, at the same time, relinquishing the right to build additional structures on the parcel. The land trust is responsible for making sure that a landowner adheres to the conservation terms of the easement. An easement may apply to all or a portion of the property and may or may not allow for public access to the property. A landowner who has donated a conservation easement can sell the land or pass it on to heirs, and future owners of the property are bound by the terms of the easement.

Lingo Creek, Peninsula Nature Reserve

HOW DO TAX INCENTIVES WORK?

If a conservation easement is voluntarily donated, and if it benefits the public by permanently protecting important conservation resources, it can qualify as a charitable tax deduction on the donor’s federal income tax return. Easements vary greatly in value. In general, the highest easement values are found on tracts of open space under high development pressure. In some jurisdictions, placing an easement on one’s land may also result in property tax savings for the landowner.

Lingo Creek, Peninsula Nature Reserve

WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE LAND TRUST?

Voluntarily donating a permanent conservation easement is a major commitment for a landowner that requires careful planning and independent legal advice. Donating an easement also necessitates a strong working partnership. A landowner should allow sufficient time for the careful drafting of baseline documentation, creation of maps and production of a professional property appraisal. SCLT will want to review the appraisal before accepting the gift, and landowners should understand that the Trust may decline to accept a donation that does not meet both the legal requirements and the SCLT’s charitable mission and strategic plan.

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