Donating Land for Conservation

Misty MountainDonating land for conservation purposes is truly one of the finest legacies a person can leave to future generations. The staff and volunteers of the Georges River Land Trust would be delighted to talk with you about the various forms that conservation land donations can take as well as the process of making a donation of land or an interest in land.

Financial Incentives for Land Donation

A number of tax programs have been enacted to provide financial incentives for the donation of land and interests in land to conservation organizations. Depending upon the circumstances of the donor’s estate and the terms of an individual gift, these can include:

  • deductions to federal and state income taxes in the year of the gift or in later years
  • reduction in the size of a taxable probate estate.
  • relief from town real estate taxes

The value of a gift for these purposes is based upon a professional appraisal of the interest being donated. The Georges River Land Trust is a qualified recipient of conservation land donations, but it is not a tax advisor and cannot provide advice on how tax laws may apply in individual cases. Because the effect of the tax laws depends on the circumstances of each person’s overall estate, it is important to consult your professional tax advisor.

Types of Land Donation

Here is a brief description of the many different forms that conservation land donations can take:

  • Land Donation: This is a charitable donation of land which is given over immediately to the Georges River Land Trust. The land trust takes title to the property, assuming full ownership and future care of the property.
  • Easement: It is possible to give an interest in land such in the form of a conservation easement. In this case the donor would still own the land itself, but the Georges River Land Trust would hold the right to enforce the conservation restrictions.
  • Gift of Future Ownership: Another method of donation is to make a gift of future ownership – the donor would retain use and possession of the land during his or her lifetime, while the Georges River Land Trust would become the owner upon the donor’s death or other named event.
  • By Will: Some donors have made gifts of land to the Georges River Land Trust by instruction in their will.
  • Neighborhood Purchase and Donation: In other cases, groups of neighbors have joined together to conserve a special area near their homes.

The Georges River Land Trust will work with you and your professional advisor to find a donation method that most closely fits your goals and circumstances.

The Land Donation Process

If you are considering donating land for conservation purposes, the first step in the process is to contact Georges River Land Trust Director of Conservation, Annette Naegel, either by phone: (207) 594-5166 or by email. You are also welcome to stop by the Georges River Land Trust office at 8 N. Main Street, Suite 200, Rockland, Maine, or arrangements can be made to meet with you at the property itself. This initial conversation will help to clarify your goals and wishes as a basis for evaluating the conservation values of your property and the various land donation methods most suitable for you.

Land trusts may accept land for conservation purposes when the property has been determined to fit strategically with their organizational purposes. The Georges River Land Trust considers such matters as the proximity of the proposed gift to other protected open space parcels or corridors, the size of the parcel, and its function as a wetland, wildlife habitat, or working lands, and public access. In determining the conservation value of a parcel of land, Georges River Land Trust staff and Land Protection Volunteers visit the property. Professional due diligence includes a review of the title (ownership history) of the property, surveying and staking, and appropriate environmental assessments. The Georges River Land Trust’s commitment to accept a conservation land donation is made by a vote of its Board of Directors because it involves an undertaking of permanent stewardship.

The Georges River Land Trust asks donors to provide its due diligence costs, legal fees and recording fees. In addition, the Georges River Land Trust asks donors of land for a one-time tax-deductible contribution to its Property Reserve fund to enable the organization to steward the land in perpetuity.

The time to review a prospective gift of land and to complete the gift can take a period of months. If a gift involves dividing a tract of land, Town permits may need to be obtained. By talking with the Georges River Land Trust and your professional consultants early, you can best plan a gift within the timeframe suitable for you.

A donation of land to the Georges River Land Trust is a formal conveyance by deed and is permanent. Therefore, it is an intensely personal family decision which must be given careful consideration, and one that must be made with the advice of your own professional legal and financial consultants who have expertise in the areas of tax, estate planning and land use. In considering a donation of land or an interest in land, it is important to evaluate the effect of the donation on your overall estate for the future.

The Directors, staff and volunteers of the Georges River Land Trust look forward to working with you and your advisors to create an incomparable gift to future generations.