Cranberry Bog. Photo: Andrew Baugnet
The most common way to protect rural lands is with a tool known as a conservation easement. A conservation easement is a legal agreement that protects a property and its unique conservation attributes by permanently limiting uses of the land that have detrimental impacts. Conservation easements allow landowners to continue to own, use, sell or bequeath their land as they wish.
Establishing a conservation easement permanently affects the market value of a piece of land, and so may provide the landowner with a financial benefit by reducing property taxes. It may also help inheritors of the land by reducing estate taxes. Future owners are legally bound by the terms of the conservation easement, and the Trust is likewise responsible to ensuring that the terms of the easement, including any restrictions or allowances for public access, are followed and enforced.
Conservation easements vary widely in the restrictions they impose or the allowances they permit. The key is that they enable the land's natural value and function to be protected in perpetuity. Since 2007, local landowners have partnered with the Otsego Land Trust to secure more than eight miles of stream and river frontage, including more than a mile along the Susquehanna River, as well as more than 230 acres of wetlands and other natural habitat. Whether you value prime soils for farming, game species for hunting and fishing, or simply wish to establish a haven for the unique plants and animals of the Otsego Region, we can work with you to help protect your rural property for future generations.
Because a conservation easement is a legally binding agreement that permanently affects the disposition and value of a piece of land, you should consult a lawyer and accountant and meet with representatives of the Otsego Land Trust to ensure that all of your needs and expectations can be met. If you would like to learn more about establishing a conservation easement on land you own, please contact us and we can help you begin the process.
Once a large farm is subdivided and developed, its productive life effectively ends. A PDR is a means of helping owners liquidate some of the value of their property so they can continue farming and, at the same time, help ensure that subsequent owners will not be able to take the land out of production for other purposes. PDR is an alternative to subdividing and selling parcels to generate revenue. The availability of this tool is limited based on funding.
Ownership of land usually comes with a bundle of rights including mineral, water and logging rights, as well as the right to subdivide and develop the land. When a landowner donates or sells their development rights, they retain all other rights and responsibilities associated with the land, but the right to develop or subdivide that parcel is permanently relinquished to a third party such as Otsego Land Trust and the restriction is attached to the deed.
Removing the development rights from farmland generally reduces its market value. This may help facilitate the transfer of a farm to children by reducing estate taxes or may make the land more affordable to new farmers or others who want to buy it for agricultural purposes.
Because a PDR is a legally binding agreement that permanently affects the disposition and value of a piece of land, you should consult a lawyer and accountant, and meet with representatives of the Otsego Land Trust to ensure that all of your needs and expectations can be met. If you own a working farm or forest that you would like to protect by setting up a PDR, contact us and we can help you begin the process.
For some properties, especially those with historic or cultural value, and for some landowners, it makes the most sense to simply transfer ownership to a land trust or other third party. This can take place either through an outright donation of the land to Otsego Land Trust or through a bargain sale in which the Trust purchases a parcel for a reduced price.
The Trust might retain ownership of the property as a permanent preserve or may transfer ownership to another suitable owner such as a government agency or other non-profit organization. In some cases, the land might be sold to a third party subject to the terms of a conservation easement or other restriction on development and the proceeds used to protect additional lands.
Both donations and bargain sales provide a landowner with tax benefits and, in some cases, with income. The full market value of a piece of land donated outright to the Trust is tax deductible, as is the difference between the full market value and the sale price of a bargain sale. A bargain sale also helps reduce some capital gains and provides cash to the seller. More importantly, donating land for the express purpose of conservation establishes a permanent legacy for future generations that says, "Pay attention—this place, this landscape is important."
Because donations and bargain sales involve legally binding agreements between you and the Trust, you should consult a lawyer and meet with representatives of the Otsego Land Trust to ensure that all of your needs and expectations can be met. If you would like to learn more about donating or selling land you own, please contact us and we can help you begin the process.