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Protecting Your Lands
Conservation Options for Private Landowners
A legal agreement between a private landowner and a nonprofit land-conservation organization such as Countryside Conservancy. The agreement permanently and legally restricts the types of subdivision, development, and activities allowed on a property. It is a powerful tool for preserving the important natural, scenic or recreational values of a property.
Under a conservation easement, the landowner retains ownership of the land and all rights not covered by the easement, while the Conservancy takes on legal responsibility for enforcing the easement restrictions.
A conservation easement is a voluntary initiative on the landowner’s part. The easement document itself is tailored through discussions between the landowner and the Conservancy and is designed to protect the values of the land in a way that reflects the owner’s needs and wishes.
The landowner benefits from an easement through the assurance that the important values of the land will be protected permanently, even after it passes into other hands. In certain cases, the landowner can take a Federal income tax deduction for donating a conservation easement.
The Conservancy holds conservation easements on properties in three counties (see Protected Lands for information on our easement properties). Nationwide, over 6 million acres have been protected through voluntary conservation agreements of this type.
A landowner may donate the title to conservation-worthy land to Countryside Conservancy. Donating land releases the landowner from the day-to-day responsibility of managing the land. The Conservancy will work with the landowner to ensure that the Conservancy has the resources to own and manage the land as the landowner envisions.
The Conservancy will consider acquiring lands only if the owner wishes to sell and if ownership seems to be the best way to provide significant public benefit. To date, most of the properties we have acquired lie next to Lackawanna State Park, and we manage them as public-access areas that serve as virtual extensions to State Park lands.
Donations of land may be made during the landowner’s lifetime or by bequest. Landowners who donate land to a conservancy typically quality for a Federal income tax deduction, and also avoid paying the capital gains tax that usually results from a land sale.
Landowners may donate a remainder interest in land while reserving a life estate for themselves. This allows the landowners to continue living on the land and using it during their lifetime; ownership passes to the Conservancy upon their demise. Giving a remainder interest in land may qualify a landowner for a Federal income tax deduction.
Landowners may sell conservation-worthy land to the Conservancy for less than its market value in a “bargain sale.” This option generates some income for the landowner and may also qualify the landowner for a Federal income tax deduction for the donated value (the difference between market value and sale price).