Why grant a conservation easement?
People grant conservation easements to protect their land from inappropriate development while retaining private ownership. By granting an easement in perpetuity, the owner may be assured that the conservation values of the property will be protected permanently, no matter who the future owners are.
What kind of property can be protected?
Any property with conservation values can be protected by a conservation easement. This includes forests, wetlands, farms, endangered species habitat, stream frontage, and scenic areas. NPC’s staff can help a landowner evaluate the relevant features of a particular property.
How large must a property be to have a conservation easement?
Conservation easements protect the important features of a property, regardless of size. A rare plant or wetland may be protected in a few acres, while protection of an important scenic view may require 100 or 1000 acres.
Does a conservation easement require public access?
No. Landowners make their own choice about whether to allow the public to use their property. Most landowners who protect their land with a conservation easement do not grant public access, However, some landowners use a conservation easement to convey certain public access rights, such as allowing fishing or hiking in specified locations.
What happens after the conservation easement is granted?
The landowner still owns the property and pays taxes. The landowner can sell, give away, or donate the property.
NPC monitors the property at least once a year to ensure the terms of the conservation easement are being upheld. NPC will also review landowner requests to undertake management activities.
Are there income tax benefits to donating a conservation easement?
NPC is a 501(c)(3) organization. A donation of a qualified conservation easement is treated like other charitable contributions. A qualified real estate appraiser establishes the value of a conservation easement donation. The land’s value before the conservation easement is determined based on the fair market value of the highest and best use of the land. The value after the conservation easement is also determined. The difference is the value of the charitable donation of the conservation easement and may be taken as an income tax deduction. The donation of a conservation easement may also reduce the value of the landowner’s estate for tax purposes.
NPC recommends that the landowner’s tax advisor consult the IRS guidelines for donation of a conservation easement.
Can granting a conservation easement reduce an owner’s property taxes?
Property tax assessment is usually based on the property’s market value, which often reflects the property’s development potential. If a conservation easement reduces the development potential of the property, it may reduce the level of assessment and the amount of the owner’s property taxes. The actual amount of reduction, if any, depends on many factors. State law and the personal attitudes of local officials and assessors may influence or determine the decision to award property tax relief to easement grantors.
It is up to individual property owners to seek changes in their property tax assessment.
How long does the process take?
Granting a conservation easement does take time. This is especially true when the conservation easement donation is made with a tax deduction in mind or when many family members are involved. Typically the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy works on a project for at least six months before the conservation easement is recorded.
The time for legal review, title work, surveys, and review by other professional advisors often takes longer than anticipated.