What is a Conservation Easement?
A conservation easement is a legal, voluntary agreement between the landowner and Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust that protects the natural, agricultural, recreational, scenic, or historic values inherent to Tug Hill Tomorrow’s farms, forests and wildlands.
With a conservation easement on your land, the landowner is assured that the land will be protected forever without giving up ownership of the land. Landowners who enter into this agreement with us continue to own the conserved property and pay property taxes yet are free to sell the land or pass it on to the next generation.
Conservation easements are very flexible and are tailored to each landowner and property. For example, a landowner may want to retain the right to farm or harvest timber, retain future building rights, or use the land for education and other activities that sustain the property’s special resources. These details are worked out between the landowner and Tug Hill Tomorrow.
If you donate an easement to Tug Hill Tomorrow, there may be tax benefits to the land owner. The easement is filed with the deed, and present and future owners of the property are bound by the restrictions of the easement. Public access is not a requirement of a conservation easement and in some cases may be contrary to the easement’s purpose.
Once finalized, a conservation easement will be tied to the land, whether the land is sold or remains in the family. This legal continuity will provide you the assurance that the land you cared for will be protected for perpetuity.
As of January 2017, THTLT has protected 18,912 acres through conservation easements. The 142-acre Joseph A. Blake, Jr. Wildlife Sanctuary, located in the Town of Rutland is the first property that the land trust owns.
If you own land with important natural or historic resources, donating a conservation easement can be one of the smartest ways to conserve the land you love and protect Tug Hill’s natural heritage, while maintaining your private property rights and possibly realizing significant federal and state tax benefits.
The federal incentive allows a conservation easement donor to deduct the value of the easement, as determined by a professional, up to 50% of their adjusted gross income in any year, and donors to take deductions for their contribution over as many as 16 years. For farmers, adjusted gross income in any year can be deducted up to 100% for as many as 16 years. Read the full explanation of federal tax benefits of conservation easements from Land Trust Alliance.
Landowners that donate an easement are also eligible for an annual NYS Income Tax credit that is equal to 25% of the property taxes they pay on the land covered by the easement up to $5,000 a year. This is a refundable credit, so if no income tax is owed, the landowner will receive a check for that amount. This benefit passes on to subsequent owners, providing an incentive for owning conserved land. Read the full explanation of NYS Conservation Easement Tax Credit.
Taking the next step
By discussing your cherished property with you, we can assess the conservation opportunities that best fit you and your property’s resources, your financial or charitable objectives, and your vision for the future of your land.
Please call our Land Protection Manager, Dick Johnston (315) 779-8240 to learn more about how to conserve your land, or land in your community, and be a part of keeping the Tug Hill region special for future generations.