Landowners who wish to protect their land so that its special scenic, historic and natural features remain intact for future generations, can use various tools to restrict the type, amount and location of future development. These techniques are all private and voluntary, and they provide more permanent ways to protect land than is possible using governmental regulations such as zoning, critical environmental area designation, etc. A brief description of each option follows. The Land Trust staff is available to further discuss any of these alternatives with conservation-minded landowners.
The Hudson Highlands Land Trust has been protecting the spectacular landscapes that make this region a national treasure for more than 27 years. HHLT has protected over 2400 acres of critical habitat, natural landscapes, and unsurpassed scenic resources.
Since the creation of the Hudson Highlands Land Trust in 1989, we have partnered with private landowners to complete over 86 conservation easements protecting their properties and worked with our regional conservation partners, municipalities and New York State to protect several thousand additional acres in the Highlands.
The Hudson Highlands Land Trust embodies the goal of protecting a variety of landscapes, which play a critical role in the larger arena of smart planning for the future. By conserving forests and fields, waterways and viewsheds, we provide an opportunity for future generations to have access to unique recreational resources, productive forests and open spaces that contribute to the health and productivity of our local communities. The work that we do in the Hudson Highlands contributes to the economic, social and natural health of our region.
We look forward to partnering with landowners to achieve their own goals for protecting their landscapes for future generations to enjoy.
Map of HHLT Conserved Properties (3.6mb pdf)
THE LANDOWNER’S OPTIONS
A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement between a landowner and a land conservation organization, such as the Hudson Highlands Land Trust, that is permanently binding on the land, no matter who owns it. The landowner retains all rights to own, sell, and use the land according to the provisions of the easement. Many easements allow limited future development to occur. In order to ensure that the land retains its character, the number of residential units allowed is specified in the easements, and the areas that should be left undeveloped are shown on an accompanying map.
If the easement is restrictive enough so that the property is diminished in value, this reduction in value may qualify for treatment as a tax-deductible charitable contribution.
The Land Trust is responsible for monitoring to ensure compliance with the easement. If there is a violation, the Land Trust works with the landowner to remedy the violation, and can take legal action to correct the violation if necessary. In order to ensure that there will be the financial capability to enforce the easement, the Land Trust requests an endowment to be held in a restricted fund for monitoring and enforcement. For more information, refer to the section Questions and Answers on Conservation Easements.
Conservation Easement Escrow Agreement
Since a landowner's easement benefits his neighbors, it is advantageous for neighbors to execute easements jointly. A mechanism to coordinate this is the placement of signed conservation easements in escrow with the Land Trust or some other third party, to be recorded as a group when enough of them have been completed. This approach provides reassurance that landowners will not be alone in filing their easements, thus ensuring protection of the entire "neighborhood".
These are restrictions placed in the title to land by owners of adjoining parcels or by an owner of a parcel that is subdivided into lots. Also known as "restrictive covenants running with the land," these restrictions can only be enforced by the adjoining owners or their successors. They can be dissolved by mutual agreement, and are not tax-deductible.
Deed restrictions are easier to remove in court than are conservation easements. A combination of deed restrictions and a conservation easement provides the strongest protection, because both the adjoining owners and the Land Trust have enforcement rights, and the easement enjoys a special legal status that makes it difficult to overturn in court.
An outright gift of land to the Hudson Highlands Land Trust provides the greatest tax benefit. However, unless the land has unique resource values or is appropriate for a public recreational site, the Land Trust will place a conservation easement on it and resell it, using the funds to continue protecting the land.
This is a sale of land to the Land Trust at a price less than fair market value. The seller is entitled to an income tax deduction for the difference between the sale price and the fair market value as determined by a qualified appraiser. The Land Trust would normally resell the land subject to a conservation easement.