There are many benefits:
- Preserving land protects the natural beauty and value of the property in perpetuity.
- Preservation can ensure that the habitat that exists on the property today is there tomorrow for the wildlife that reside on and migrate through the area.
- A Conservation Easement provides a landowner with some of the accrued value of the land without the need for selling the land outright.
- Donating land may provide both federal and state income tax deductions.
- Preserving property can enhance recreational areas identified in your town or county’s open space and recreational plan.
- A conservation plan or strategy can be tailored to fit your land and your financial needs.
- Open space doesn’t require municipal services so property taxes are lower.
- There may be income, estate and property tax benefits for donating your land, donating a conservation easement, or selling the property as a “bargain sale” at below market value. The amount and type of tax benefits depends on a variety of factors, including the legal tool you’ve used to protect you land, the value of the donation, your income level and the total amount of your estate. Again, you should consult with a financial advisor and/or an attorney to fully understand the tax implications.
- Many reports have shown that conserving open space in communities around the U.S. attracts jobs, enhances property values, and saves billions in government costs.
A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement that allows the landowner to limit the type or amount of development on his or her property while retaining private ownership of the land. This agreement also applies to all future owners of the land. A fee simple acquisition involves acquiring (by purchase or donation) outright ownership 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.
Fee simple acquisitions or conservation easements are good but the key is to have the land protected by putting a preservation mechanism in the deed.
Determining whether a conservation easement or fee simple donation is better is dependent on each individual situation. If a landowner wishes to remain living on the land, a conservation easement allows him or her to retain ownership of that land while protecting it from future development. If a landowner wishes to make his or her land available to the public, a fee simple donation may be the best option. This allows a land trust organization to obtain ownership of the land and manage it as a public park or other passive recreational use.
As of 2003, there were 32 land trusts operating within New Jersey and that number continues to grow. These trusts are located throughout the state, preserving land in a number of regions: Delaware Valley, Highlands, Jersey Shore, Pine Barrens, Sourlands, and our very own North Jersey Metro Region. Visit the Land Trust Alliance to view a partial list of the area’s land trust organizations.
Meadowlands Conservation Trust holds conservation easements on 19 acres of Emerson Woods property located in Emerson, NJ, 3 acres at Demarest Clarke House in Demarest, NJ, 18 acres at Pine Terrace in Demarest, NJ, 65 acres at Fox Hill West in Norwood, NJ, 100 acres at Norwood Central Woods, in Norwood, NJ, and less than 1 acre at Pomander Walk in Teaneck, NJ. The Trust owns the 587-acre Empire Tract in the Meadowlands region in Carlstadt and South Hackensack, NJ and Skeetkill Creek Marsh Park which is 16 acres in the Ridgefield, NJ.
Yes, however since the vast majority of the land consists of wetlands and waterways, it would be difficult at best for humans to physically get out there. The wildlife will be the big beneficiaries.
Yes, the Trust is always looking for generous individuals to donate land or conservation easements. We also accept donations of time and materials for site clean-ups. If you are interested in making a monetary donation please contact the Trust offices.
Meadowlands Conservation Trust has become the Land Steward for the Hackensack River and Meadowlands Region. We stand ready to assist folks in their land preservation needs.
Meadowlands Conservation Trust
Two DeKorte Park Plaza
PO Box 640
Lyndhurst, NJ 07071
ATT: Colleen Mercado
Administrative Assistant to MCT CEO Christine Sanz
Yes, there are 88 seasonal and year-round species in this region that are considered to be of special emphasis. Some of these include:
Federally Listed Endangered
Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus)
Federal Species of Concern
Northern diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys t. terrapin)
Northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis)
State Listed Endangered
Pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)
Cooper’s hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
Northern harrier (Circus cyaneus)
Least tern (Sterna antillarum)
Black skimmer (Rhynchops niger)
Short-eared owl (Asio flammeus)
State Listed Threatened
Great blue heron (Ardea herodias)
Yellow-crowned night-heron (Nycticorax violaceus)
Long-eared owl (Asio otus)
Savannah sparrow (Passerculcus sandwichensis)
(Data obtained from USFWS Significant Habitats and Habitat Complexes of the New York Bight Watershed: http://training.fws.gov/library/pubs5/web_link/text/hm_form.htm)
A land trust is an organization that, as all or part of its mission, actively works to conserve land by undertaking or assisting direct land transactions-primarily the purchase or acceptance of donations of land or conservation easements.
Land trusts are very closely tied to the communities in which they operate. Donations of land, conservation easements or money may qualify you for income, estate or gift tax savings.
Local and regional land trusts…are directly involved in conserving land for its natural, recreational, scenic, historical and productive values. Land trusts can purchase land for permanent protection, or they may use one of several other methods: accept donations of land or the funds to purchase land, accept a bequest, or accept the donation of a conservation easement, which permanently limits the type and scope of development that can take place on the land. In some instances, land trusts also purchase conservation easements.
Not at all! A very few land trusts have already celebrated their centennials, but most are much younger. In 1950, for example, just 53 land trusts operated in 26 states. Today, more than 1,500 land trusts operate across the country, serving every state in the nation. The Northeast, home of the first land trust, still has the most land trusts – 558, according to [the Land Trust Alliance’s] most recent survey.
People are tremendously concerned about the unmitigated loss of open space in their own communities. They see subdivisions supplanting the open spaces where they once walked and hiked, and they want to know how they can gain the power to save the green spaces that make their communities unique. So they turn to land trusts as the local entities that have been set up to conserve land.
A conservation easement (or conservation restriction) is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. It allows you to continue to own and use your land and to sell it or pass it on to heirs.
When you donate a conservation easement to a land trust, you give up some of the rights associated with the land. For example, you might give up the right to build additional structures, 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.
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 or may not result in property tax savings.
Perhaps most important, 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 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.
On one level by putting conservation easement on the property- places another layer of protection and the temptation to develop the land. Another reason is people execute a conservation easement because they love their open space land, and want to protect their land from inappropriate development while keeping their private ownership of the property. Granting an easement to a conservation organization…can yield income and estate tax savings. Moreover, land trusts, some of which are more than 100 years old, have the expertise and experience to work with landowners and ensure that the land will remain as permanent open space.
They are very popular. In the 5 years between 1998 and 2003, the amount of land protected by local and regional land trusts using easements tripled to 5 million acres. Landowners have found that conservation easements can be flexible tools, and yet provide a permanent guarantee that the land won’t ever be developed. Conservation easements are used to protect all types of land, including coastlines; farm and ranchland; historical or cultural landscapes; scenic views; streams and rivers; trails; wetlands; wildlife areas; and working forests.
An easement restricts development to the degree that is necessary to protect the significant conservation values of that particular property. Sometimes this totally prohibits construction, and sometimes it doesn’t. Landowners and land trusts, working together, can write conservation easements that reflect both the landowner’s desires and the need to protect conservation values. Even the most restrictive easements typically permit landowners to continue such traditional uses of the land as farming and ranching.
First, contact a land trust in your community to become acquainted with the organization and the services they can provide. Explore with them the conservation values you want to protect on the land. Discuss with the land trust what you want to accomplish, and what development rights you may want to retain. For example, you may already have one home on your property and want to preserve the right to build another home. That is one provision that must be specifically written into an easement agreement. Always consult with other family members regarding an easement, and remember that you should consult with your own attorney or financial advisor regarding such a substantial decision.
Most easements “run with the land,” binding the original owner and all subsequent owners to the easement’s restrictions. Only gifts of perpetual easements can qualify for income and estate tax benefits. The easement is recorded at the county or town records office so that all future owners and lenders will learn about the restrictions when they obtain title reports.
The land trust is responsible for enforcing the restrictions that the easement document spells out. Therefore, the land trust monitors the property on a regular basis — typically once a year – to determine that the property remains in the condition prescribed by the easement document. The land trust maintains written records of these monitoring visits, which also provide the landowner a chance to keep in touch with the land trust. Many land trusts establish endowments to provide for long-term stewardship of the easements they hold.
By working with a land trust, you can decide the best conservation tool to use to protect your land. You can select from a number of tools, including the outright donation of your property, the donation or sale of a conservation easement that permanently restricts development, the bargain sale of your property, and several other variations. You should always have legal advice before embarking on such a decision.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service reports that between 1997 and 2001, 2.2 million acres were lost to development each year (2001 Annual Natural Resources Inventory). The [Land Trust Alliance] land trust census reports that from 1998 to 2003, local and regional land trusts conserved open space at a rate of about 800,000 acres per year. Many of the nation’s land trusts were formed to address this problem – conserving our precious landscapes before they are lost forever to development. However, whether to develop or conserve a particular parcel of land is a complex decision that depends on many criteria and local concerns.
Please note that a land trust must be selective in choosing land-saving projects. Unless the land trust exercises care in choosing its projects, it may find itself stuck with a property or a conservation easement that serves little public interest, is very costly to manage, or does not really fit with the land trust’s purposes. A land trust that does not carefully select its projects may open itself to public criticism, credibility problems and even legal problems.
So get to know your local land trust and volunteer your time, support it financially, or even donate land or a conservation easement. That way, you can help your community protect the land that you think is culturally, economically or environmentally important.
Also, you may want to get involved in your state or local planning activities. Planning agencies often provide opportunities for public input on development issues that affect citizens and you can request to be placed on their mailing lists to receive updates on current and future plans for your area. Citizen input can improve the planning process and positively affect future developments that may otherwise be detrimental to the overall health of your community.
About half of the nation’s land trusts are staffed entirely by volunteers. Other land trusts use volunteers on a continuing basis for various needs, including, sometimes, in helping to manage the land.