Land Acquisition Terms
Appraisal: A professional assessment of the market value of a property.
Bargain sale: The sale of a piece of property for less than market value. In most cases, a bargain sale to a land trust allows the landowner to receive an income tax deduction.
Conservation easement: A conservation easement enables a landowner to retain private ownership of the land but with development restrictions. This easement also applies to all future owners of the land.
Deed: Document signed by a grantor (seller) transferring property from one person to another.
Development rights: The legal rights of a landowner to develop his/her property.
Easement: A right of way giving individuals other than the owner permission to use a property for a specific purpose.
Environmental assessment: A process intended to identify, analyze and evaluate the environmental effects of a proposed project.
Estate & inheritance taxes: Because a conservation easement limits the future development and use of the property, the market value of the land is lowered. A reduction in market value can also result in reduced estate and inheritance taxes. Granting a conservation easement is not only valuable to your land, but it may also be important for your heirs.
Fee simple: A fee simple involves outright ownership of real estate along with all of the rights associated with the land. A fee simple donation means that ownership is turned over to the land trust and the property becomes a legal possession of the organization.
Financial benefits: The most important reason landowners grant conservation easements is to protect their land from future disruption. The financial benefits of granting a conservation easement in perpetuity can also be significant. Although particular benefits are unique to each landowner, donating a conservation easement may result in substantial income, estate or property tax deductions.
It is important to remember that a conservation easement is granted to preserve land. An easement is not tax deductible if its purpose does not fit into one of the following – protection of land for the public good and protection of significant wildlife habitat, open space, farmland, or wetlands.
Grantee: One to whom a grant is made, the purchaser of real property.
Grantor: The grantor is the seller of real property.
Income taxes: Income tax is a tax paid on money made from employment, business or capital. A conservation easement donated to a land trust may be claimed as a deduction on your income taxes.
Perpetuity: continuing forever.
Remainder interest: A landowner retains the right to live on his or her land until death, and at death the land goes to the charitable organization.
Right of first refusal: The right of a party to acquire property before it is offered to others.
Survey: A professional examination of a property. A survey details the size of a property, boundaries, ground contours and where improvements or alterations have been made.
Title/title work: The legal document guaranteeing ownership of a piece of property.
Trust: Something (as property) held by one party (the trustee) for the benefit of another (the beneficiary).
Baseline documentation: Baseline documentation records the condition of a property at the time of acquisition by identifying existing physical conditions both natural and man-made. It provides a baseline for measuring future changes in the property’s conservation resources and other features. The IRS requires baseline documentation for tax-deductible donations of conservation easements.
Baseline documentation includes a property description, background and legal information, photographs of key features, maps or aerial photos of the property, a recent site-specific resource inventory, and any information from an appraisal.
Buffer strip: A relatively undisturbed section of land adjacent to an area requiring special attention or protection such as a stream, lake, or road.
Conservation: the preservation and careful management of the environment and of natural resources.
Encroachment: A building or property that extends beyond the land of the owner and illegally intrudes on the land of an adjoining owner.
Greenways: Strips of natural areas that connect to other natural areas. These areas are intended for wildlife and recreation.
Monitoring: Monitoring helps a land trust develop a relationship with the landowner, helps discover changes in land ownership, enables it to see if the easement is effective, helps uncover violations, saves time and money on enforcement actions, and establishes a record in case of court action. The monitor will review the easement terms with the landowner, walk the property, visit any particular areas of special concern, check boundaries of property, and check any areas of the land affected by landowner reserved rights or special easement restrictions. The monitor will photograph any significant changes caused by natural processes (fire, flood, etc.) and any possible violations of the easement. The monitor will also take field notes and list photos taken.
Preservation: the protection of a portion of the natural environment from unnatural disturbance
Restoration: The return of an ecosystem or habitat to its original community structure, natural complement of species, and natural functions.
Stewardship: The responsibility of a land trust to wisely manage a land resource
Atlantic flyway: One of the four main American flyways used by migrating birds. The Meadowlands lies at the crossroads of numerous migration routes, making it an important location with significant avian habitat.
Biodiversity: The variety of ecosystems and species of plants and animals that can be found in the environment.
Ecosystem: The interacting system of a biological community and its non-living environmental surroundings.
Ecotourism: Nature-based tourism that involves education and interpretation of the natural environment and is managed to be ecologically sustainable. Ecotourism often involves hiking, kayaking, and bird watching among others.
Estuary: A complex ecosystem between a river and near-shore ocean waters. These areas where fresh and salt water mix include bays, mouths of rivers, salt marshes, and wetlands. Estuaries provide valuable habitat for marine animals, birds, and other wildlife.
Flood plain: a lowland area near a river or stream that is subject to periodic flooding.
Ground water: The supply of fresh water found beneath the Earth’s surface, usually in aquifers, which supply wells and springs. Because ground water is a major source of drinking water, there is growing concern over contamination from leaching agricultural or industrial pollutants or leaking underground storage tanks.
Headwaters: The origin and upper reaches of a river or stream.
Natural resources: Materials that occur in nature and are essential or useful to humans, such as water, air, land, forests, fish and wildlife, soil, and minerals.
Non-point source pollution: Pollution that cannot be tied to a single, identifiable source. Common non-point sources are agriculture, forestry, urban, mining, construction, dams, channels, land disposal, saltwater intrusion, and city streets.
Point source pollution: Pollution that can be traced to a single point source. Examples of point sources are pipes, ditches and factory smokestacks.
Riparian habitat: The transition zone between aquatic and upland habitat. Riparian habitat lies adjacent to rivers and streams with a differing density, diversity, and productivity of plant and animal species relative to nearby uplands.
River corridor: the band of vegetation along a river that differs from the surrounding environment
Upland habitat: Terrestrial ecosystems located away from riparian zones and wetlands.
Watershed: A watershed is the area of land where all of the water that is under it or drains off of it goes into the same place.
Wetlands: Wetlands are lands where saturation with water is the dominant factor determining the nature of soil development and the types of plant and animal communities living in the soil and on its surface (Cowardin, December 1979).
New definition (EPA): Wetlands: An area that is saturated by surface or ground water with vegetation adapted for life under those soil conditions, as swamps, bogs, fens, marshes, and estuaries.