Conservation-minded landowners who wish to protect their land can use various tools to restrict the type, amount and location of future development. These tools are private and voluntary, and they provide more permanent land protection than is possible using governmental regulations. Our land conservation staff is available to discuss any of these options with interested landowners.
A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement between a landowner and a land conservation organization, like HHLT, 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. If the easement is restrictive enough so the property is diminished in value, this reduction in value may qualify for treatment as a tax-deductible charitable contribution.
HHLT is responsible for monitoring conserved properties to ensure compliance with easements. If a violation is discovered, we work with the landowner to remedy the situation and can take legal action to correct the violation, if necessary. In order to ensure we have the financial capability to monitor and enforce easements, we request an endowment to be held in a restricted fund.
Conservation Easement Escrow Agreement
Since one 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 HHLT 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 conservation easements.
A combination of deed restrictions and a conservation easement provides the strongest protection, because both the adjoining owners and HHLT 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 HHLT provides the greatest tax benefit to the landowner. However, unless the land has unique natural resource values or is appropriate for a public recreational site, we will place a conservation easement on it and resell it, using the funds generated from the transaction to continue protecting the land.
This is a sale of land to HHLT at a price below 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. As with land donations, we would normally resell the land subject to a conservation easement.