Is a Conservation Easement Right for Your Farm ?
Placing a conservation easement on your property means that some of the rights associated with the land will be restricted going into the future. For example, you might give up the right to subdivide or develop the land, while retaining the right to grow crops. Future owners also will be bound by the easement’s terms. The land trust is responsible for making sure the easement’s terms are followed.
Conservation easements offer great flexibility. An easement on property containing rare wildlife habitat might prohibit any development, for example, while one on a farm might allow continued farming and the building of additional agricultural structures. An easement may apply to just a portion of the property, and need not require public access.
Perhaps most importantly, a conservation easement can be essential for passing land on to the next generation. By removing the land’s development potential, the easement lowers its market value, which in turn lowers the estate tax. Whether the easement is donated during life or by will, it can make a critical difference in the heirs’ ability to keep the land intact.
A landowner sometimes sells a conservation easement, but usually easements are donated. If the donation benefits the public by permanently protecting important conservation resources and meets other federal tax code requirements, it can qualify as a tax-deductible charitable donation. The amount of the donation is the difference between the land’s value with the easement and its value without the easement. Placing an easement on your property may also result in property tax savings.Donate A Conservation Easement
Process of Accepting a Conservation Easement
From the Alaska Farmland Trust’s desk, we wanted to take your through the process of putting a conservation easement on the property.
- Step 1: Finding out if a conservation easement is right for you. Our staff will sit down with you to talk about whether a conservation easement is appropriate for your current and future needs of the property. If it is, will ask that you fill out a preliminary application
- Step 2: The Alaska Farmland Trust’s Board of Directors will review the application and must decide if the property fits our mission. We look at soil types, historical use, threat of development, and potential agricultural use in the future. The Board must also consider if we have the appropriate resources to set up the easement and manage the easement going forward.
- Step 3: We get more detailed information about the property. An initial and limited inspection of the land by an AFTC staff member which may take the form of receiving a copy of a plat or tax map from the landowner, site visit to walk the land and potentially taking some photos of the property. Any further details that can be provided about the types of activities the landowner intends to conduct on the property (farming, forestry, wildlife management, future improvements, etc.) will be gathered at this time.
- Step 4: Review of the proposed conservation easement by the AFTC Board of Directors to determine if it meets the protection criteria. The AFTC Board of Directors must approve the acceptance of the conservation easement before moving forward with the project.
- Step 5: AFTC staff must then complete our due diligence (further inspecting the land, title certification, and generating the baseline documentation of the conservation values). This makes sure that the AFTC isn’t accepting a piece of property with to much risk associated that might cause problems down the road.
- Step 6: Writing the conservation easement. If both parties decide to move forward with the project, the Alaska Farmland Trust Corporation will work with the landowner and their attorney to prepare the conservation easement (there may be several revisions before a final version is agreed upon).
- Step 7: AFTC creates a baseline document that includes the conservation easement, historical use of the property, maps etc.
- Step 8: We officially have a signing and recording the easement.
- Step 9: We celebrate!