Moon Ranch Hill What is a conservation easement?
A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement by which a landowner chooses to limit certain uses of his or her land to conserve natural and traditional values. Land placed into a conservation easement still belongs to the landowner, and the landowner retains the rights to use the land or pass it on to heirs. The landowner can live on and manage the land for farming, ranching, timber, recreation, and all other uses consistent with the conservation values the easement is protecting. The agreements are tailored to meet the particular needs and long-term goals of the individual landowner.
What is the purpose of a conservation easement?
Conservation easements are used to achieve a variety of conservation purposes, including fish and wildlife habitats, view corridors, agricultural preservation, and natural resource protection. Bodega Land Trust’s conservation program focuses on maintaining water quality, family farms and ranches, scenic views, forests, riparian zones, pastureland, and recreational lands. There is no minimum or maximum acreage, although Bodega Land Trust is uniquely qualified to protect smaller parcels in western coastal Sonoma County.
How do you determine the value of a conservation easement?
The landowner hires an independent appraiser from an approved list to determine conservation easement values. These appraisers use the sale of similar properties and adjust for differences between those sales and the appraised property. They determine the fair market value of the property before the conservation easement is in place, and its potential value after the easement is in place. The difference between these two values is the conservation easement value. Since all land trusts are classified by the IRS as 501(c)3 charities the value of a donated easement counts as a charitable donation. Under current law it can be stretched over 15 years. The easement also reduces property taxes and potentially the inheritance tax. For more information please contact us or your financial adviser.
How is Bodega Land Trust involved in the easement?
The role of Bodega Land Trust is to negotiate the terms of the easement and then ensure that the agreed-upon terms and conditions are honored. The conservation easement is recorded with the County in the form of a Grant Deed and is binding on successive owners of the property in perpetuity. In other words, it is forever. The easement outlines which activities are permitted or prohibited on the property, and the responsibilities of both the landowner and the easement holder to ensure these goals are sustained.
Our staff and volunteers review properties on site at least once a year with the landowner’s concurrence to monitor compliance with easement provisions. This is a perpetual obligation on our part to protect the public interest and to guarantee the land is protected forever.
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