What are Conservation Easements?
Land ownership carries with it a bundle of rights—the right to occupy, lease, sell, develop, construct buildings, farm, restrict access, and harvest timber, among others. A landowner can give up one or more of those rights to some other person or entity in the form of an easement for a purpose such as conservation, installing telephone poles, a cell tower, water lines or simply helping a neighbor maintain access to a landlocked parcel, while retaining ownership of the remainder of the rights. In ceding a right, the landowner “eases” it to another entity, such as a Resource Conservation District or land trust. For example, a landowner may give up the right to develop a subdivision while retaining the right to grow crops.
Even though easements are placed on private land, significant public benefits may be realized. Conservation easements can contribute to improved water quality and often protect aquifers and watersheds. They can protect a community’s scenic beauty, vistas and open space by keeping landscapes free of suburban sprawl. They can help keep landscapes in traditional uses, such as farming and ranching, and can keep small family farmers and ranchers on the land in tough economic times such as those we are experiencing today. They are used to buffer national parks and other public lands, keeping development away from the wildland-urban interface, preserving scenic entrances and giving wildlife habitat an “overflow” outlet onto private land.
Many landowners receive a federal income tax deduction for the gift of a Conservation Easement. The Internal Revenue Service allows a deduction if the easement is perpetual and donated “exclusively for conservation purposes.” The amount of the tax deduction is determined by the value of the conservation easement. In addition, the donor may have estate and property tax relief. You should always work with your tax accountant and/or lawyer to understand how to qualify for such a tax deduction.
If you have land that you would like to conserve for quality of life, the preservation of species, and for future generations, please consider dedicating your land. To learn about conservation easement opportunities in the greater Riverside-Corona area, please contact Shelli Lamb at (951) 683-7691, Ext. 202.