There are several protection strategies:
Recognizing the economic and aesthetic value of open space to this nation’s communities, federal and state legislatures have established a variety of land protection strategies for landowners desiring to protect their land for future generations. Many of these strategies offer tax and estate planning advantages in return.
These strategies are introduced briefly in the following sections. For more information, contact Michael Pope, Executive Director, at the Greenbelt office: (541) 752-9609. Or complete our online Landowner Information Form. For additional information about GLT’s priorities for land acquisition, click here to download the Land Selection Criteria.
A conservation easement offers great flexibility to landowners. You continue to own and use your land, and you can sell it or pass it on to heirs. You may receive property tax savings in return for donation of the easement. And a conservation easement can make it possible to pass land to the next generation by lowering the property’s market value.
The easement is a legal agreement between the landowner and a land trust such as Greenbelt or a government agency. The easement permanently limits some, but not all, uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. Future owners will be bound by the easement's terms, and the land trust will ensure the easement's terms are followed.
For example, an easement on property containing rare wildlife habitat might prohibit any development within the habitat. An easement on a farm can permit continued farming and the building of additional agricultural structures while protecting a portion of the property for rare habitats or species. Easements need not require public access.
Typically, conservation easements are established through donation, either during your lifetime or through your will. 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 amounting to the difference between the land's original market value and its value with the easement protections in place., The lower market value of the property can ease or eliminate estate taxes, enabling heirs to keep the land intact. For additional information on Conservation Easements click here
Donating land for conservation purposes is one of the finest legacies a person can leave to future generations in their community. There are several wonderful examples of this generosity in our area, including Beazell Memorial Forest in Kings Valley. Landowners who use this conservation strategy; own property they no longer use; own highly appreciated property; have substantial real estate holdings and wish to reduce estate tax burdens; or would like to be relieved of the responsibility of managing and caring for land. They typically do not intent to pass the land on to their heirs.
Outright donation releases you from the responsibility of managing the land and can provide substantial income tax deductions and estate tax benefits, including avoidance of any capital gains taxes that would result from selling the property. Most important, land donated and accepted for its conservation value will be permanently protected. (Other lands including Commercial and residential properties can be donated to the Greenbelt Land Trust, with the understanding that the organization will sell the land to support its conservation work. Please see the section below on tradelands.)
Donating a remainder interest in land allows you to continue living on the land. (The legal description for this is retaining a reserved life estate.) In this arrangement, you donate the property during your lifetime but continue to reside on and use the property. At the time of your death—or the end of a specified period of time—Greenbelt Land Trust gains full title and control over the property.
Typically, donation of a remainder interest qualifies you for an income tax deduction at the time the gift is made. The deduction is based on the fair market value of the donated property less the expected value of the reserved life estate.
Two strategies allow you to protect land while also receiving income for life (and/or the life of named beneficiaries.)
Through a charitable gift annuity you protect your land by donating it and receiving income during your lifetime in return. The charitable gift annuity is a legally binding agreement whereby you transfer certain property to a charity such as Greenbelt Land Trust, and the charity agrees to make regular annuity payments for life to one or two beneficiaries you specify. Your gift of land usually qualifies for a charitable income tax deduction at the time of the gift, based on the value of the land less the expected value of the annuity payments.
Another option for protecting property and receiving regular income is a charitable remainder unitrust. In this arrangement, land with a conservation easement is placed in a trust. Then the trustee sells the land and invests the net proceeds from the sale. One or more beneficiaries you specify then receive payments each year for a fixed term or for life, after which the trustee transfers the remaining funds in the trust to the Greenbelt Land Trust. This gift qualifies for a charitable income tax deduction when the land is put in the trust, based on the value of the land less the expected value of the payments.
Charitable gift annuities and charitable remainder unitrusts can be particularly advantageous for highly appreciated land that would incur significant capital gains taxes if sold outright. Please contact Michael Pope , Executive Director for details on how the Greenbelt handles these types of donations.
For many landowners, bargain sale of land offers the best of two worlds: you can realize immediate income from selling your land, and the land is permanently protected by a land trust. In this arrangement, you sell the land to the Greenbelt Land Trust or below fair market value. In turn, you receive cash, avoid some capital gains tax, and receive a charitable income tax deduction based on the difference between the land's fair market value and its sale price.
The success of the Greenbelt Land Trust is, in part, directly linked to the generosity of the individuals who have donated land for resale as part of our Tradeland Program. The Trust accepts donations of a wide variety of property and other appreciated assets to enhance its conservation efforts throughout the region.
Tradelands are properties donated to the Trust to further our conservation and education work. These properties may or may not have significant conservation characteristics.
Properties as small as an individual homesite as well as sites of more than 100 acres can been donated to the Trust. GLT can also accept houses and appreciated assets (e.g. stocks, art, furniture, antique cars).
The Conservancy staff and board of directors evaluate the donated property’s natural resources; if they are deemed to be of long-term conservation importance, the property will be protected with a conservation easement prior to selling it to a conservation buyer. If the conservation values are high the Trust may continue to own and manage the property.
All proceeds from the sale are applied to the Trust’s work throughout the region, thereby contributing to the protection of thousands of acres of additional land, helping to restore native habitats and supporting nature education programs for children and adults.
Such donations are often recognized by the I.R.S. as charitable gifts, and the appraised value as determined by a certified appraiser may be deducted from the donor’s federal and state taxable income. Land donations also have been used as an integral part of family estate planning. In addition, landowners benefit from the knowledge that their gift will leverage the protection of land that otherwise might not have been protected.
If you would like to help conserve lands in the Willamette Valley through the donation of a tradeland property, or to find out more about the Tradeland Program, contact The Greenbelt Land Trust at 541-752-9609.
If you are interested in any of these land conservation options please contact Michael Pope at the Greenbelt office at 541.752.9609.