Decisions about whether to protect a piece of private property lie with the landowners. Tax incentives and conservation programs create options that a landowner can choose to exercise, or not. Some people have observed that the ability to protect one’s land in perpetuity is the ultimate expression of property rights.
Why Choose Conservation?
Landowners choose to protect their land for a variety of reasons. Often, the primary motivation is a desire to conserve the special qualities of their land — for example, its productive farm soils, scenic beauty or valuable wildlife habitat. Tax incentives and any other funding available for conservation often factor into a family’s financial planning. In addition, the process of considering conservation options can aid in estate planning. For some families, the estate tax advantages of conservation allow them pass on their land to the next generation.
Landowners can work with their land trust to set easement terms that accommodate their future plans (for example, an additional building site), as long as the easement protects important resources on the land.
Private Land, Public Benefit
To qualify for tax incentives, all conservation easements must provide significant public benefit. Examples of public benefits include farmland preservation, wildlife habitat, scenic views, historic preservation and outdoor recreation.
Tax incentives encourage voluntary donations of conservation easements, making public investments in land conservation go further. This system of land conservation has been a tremendous success story, with over 50 million acres of land protected by land trusts, so far.
Learn more about conservation easements.