Our primary tool is a “Conservation Easement”. We know that isn’t a term used very often, so here is what it actually means:
A conservation easement is:
A voluntary, legal agreement, between a private landowner and a land trust like the BRLC.
It modifies what can be done with the land, and can limit subdivision or development.
Every easement is customized to meet the needs of the landowner and the aspects of the land that provide value to the public. This doesn’t always mean that public access is required, however. Farms and ranches are typically closed to the public, but they still provide a public benefit in the form of open space and locally grown food. Easements are arranged only when the landowner seeks them and, typically, the landowner continues to use the property the way they have. Easements on part of a parcel are possible as well.
An easement does restrict how land can be used, but that is because the owner wants those restrictions to endure past his or her lifetime. Because these easements conserve the public benefits provided by private lands, they are called conservation easements, and they are eligible for charitable contributions. Working farms and ranches remain working farms and ranches, without the pressure of ever being subdivided or developed.
A farmer who owns riverfront property alongside his farm could place either the riverfront property or the entire farm into an easement. The riverfront property may be valuable as habitat, and the farm produces food and provides open space.
A private landowner who allows the public to fish, hike, bike, hunt, or otherwise recreate on his lands can place just those sections of his land under easement.
The easement is tied to the land, not just the current landowner. The land is protected, managed, and maintained within the bounds of the agreement, now and always. There are safeguards in federal law that ensure that an easement protects the conservation values forever.
A Tax Benefit
When a landowner voluntarily restricts the use of his land, its market value may decrease. To the extent that the restriction is donated -i.e., the landowner has not accepted compensation for the reduction in value- it can be considered as a charitable donation by the IRS. For more information, please contact the BRLC or your tax adviser.
The land that BRLC protects will become increasingly important as cities and suburban neighborhoods grow. They will become a permanent, lasting legacy of history, farming, ranching, and natural spaces. Cache, Rich, and Box Elder counties are popular for their open space and relatively natural condition. Our work, and the work of the private landowners who become our partners, will continue to enrich the lives of our children, grandchildren, and generations to come.
In addition to helping landowners preserve their lands through legal means, Bear River Land Conservancy also focuses on land management plans and habitat restoration in order to keep land in a healthy state. It is not enough to simply protect the land under the law; we want land to provide clean water, healthy recreation, and, of course, natural beauty.
Occasionally, BRLC will also purchase lands that have conservation value. See, for example, our Mendon Meadow Preserve.
The Strategic Conservation Mapping Tool was developed in conjunction with Bio-West, and allows us to pinpoint which lands are valuable and why. This tool will help us prioritize projects so that we can make the most of the funds we receive, which are limited in nature.