One of the most powerful tools that landowners have to protect the land and the water are conservation easements. Conservation easements limit the extent to which land can ever be developed. A landowner who puts a conservation easement on the land waives the right to develop that land for residential, commercial, or industrial purposes. These limitations will also be in effect for all subsequent landowners. Such limitations often exclude commercial agriculture or forestry operations. Easements generally contain provisions that protect wetlands, riverfront land, and other special natural or cultural resources on the property, and prohibit subdivision of the property or the disposal of manmade or hazardous wastes. They might specify that one or more houses for family members can be built at a future date. They might also specify if and how the public can access the property.
Land can be placed under a conservation easement with a 501 (c) (3) conservation entity or municipality through three methods:
Donation at full fair market value (as determined by an appraisal). For IRS purposes, donations of easement interests are treated as tax-deductible contributions, subject to certain limitations.
Land protection arrangements often take more than a year to complete. For example, the LRAC worked for two years with partners to help a family get an easement on their large piece of land. There are many steps that must be taken to secure the easement:
Due to the complexity of real estate transactions and the need to find suitable conservation partners, completing everything in one year or less is unusual. The LRAC‘s two land protection specialists and sub-committee work closely with all partners and landowners to move the process forward.
Any easement transaction involves out-of-pocket costs for landowners. In order to encourage landowners to donate easements on their land and minimize the costs of doing so, the LRAC will pay for all or a portion of the appraisal and surveying costs if the person goes through with the easement.
In collaboration with other conservation organizations and Lamprey River municipalities, the LRAC has helped to protect 2668 acres along the river in 35 conservation projects since 1999. Using funding from the National Park Service as a base, the LRAC has leveraged additional funds by a ratio of almost 3:1.
For more information, please click the following links: Land Trust Alliance, Southeast Land Trust, Strafford Rivers Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, Natural Resources Conservation Service. The Southeast Land Trust has created "Conservation Easements Explained" to help landowners. Click here to view http://www.seltnh.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6&Itemid=41. The Center for Land Conservation Assistance has published a book that also helps landowners explore the options, "Conserving Your Land: Options for New Hampshire Landowners". It can be ordered by clicking here http://clca.forestsociety.org/publications/conserving-your-land.asp
Interested landowners are encouraged to contact Laurel Cox, Land Protection Administrator at firstname.lastname@example.org or Sharon Meeker (land protection sub-committee chair, at 603.659.5441), email@example.com.