Conservation Options

Conservation Options

What is a Conservation Easement?

  • A legally binding agreement between a landowner and a land trust or a governmental agency that permanently limits the use of the land in order to protect its conservation, historic, scenic, or open space values.
  • The easement runs with the land, so future owners will be bound to the terms of the easement. The land trust is responsible for ensuring the terms are followed by annual monitoring of the property.
  • An easement usually applies to an entire property, depending on the size of the property, but retaining future building sites within the property is an option that can be included as part of the entire conservation plan.
  • An easement does not grant public access to the property.

Donation of a Conservation Easement

  • Although the donation of an easement decreases a landowner’s development rights associated with the property, it does allow them to continue ownership and use of the land to sell or pass on to heirs as they wish.
  • Easements are tailored to fit each property and the wishes of individual landowners so as to best protect the subject property.
  • Can result in an income tax deduction, PA income tax credit, and reduced property and gift and estate taxes. See our tax benefits page for more information.

Outright Donation of Land

  • Full title and ownership are transferred to a nonprofit conservation organization or qualified governmental agency.
  • Most straightforward way to protect your land and to ensure that it is properly managed in the long term.
  • Generally yields the maximum potential income and estate tax benefit and preserves the land in perpetuity.
  • Endowment needed for on-going care of the property.

Hybrid- Donation and Sale of Conservation Easement 

  • Same as Donation above, except TLC works with State, County, Township and its own Land Reserve Fund to purchase a portion of the conservation easement rights.
  • Landowners take advantage of tax deductions while recognizing income as well.

Hybrid- Donation and Sale of Land

  • The land is sold below fair market value and the difference in price is considered a charitable contribution and can be deducted for income tax purposes.
  • Beneficial to all parties because it can provide monetary benefit for the landowner by selling outright while enabling a land trust or conservation organization to afford the purchase.

Reserved Life Estate

  • Similar to outright donation but allows the landowner to continue living on and using the land for the rest of their life.
  • The conservation organization or land trust then gains full title and control over the property.
  • Tax deduction will be less than in an outright donation.

Donating Land or Conservation Easement by Will

  • If a landowner wants to own and control their land during their lifetime, but assure its protection after their death, they can donate the land outright or donate a conservation easement by will.
  • They should make sure the chosen land trust or conservation organization is willing and able to receive the gift.