Are you thinking about preserving your land? The Hunterdon Land Trust can guide you through the process.
There are a variety of preservation programs available to landowners, each with its own requirements and criteria. Some are administered by government agencies; others are administered by nonprofit organizations like the Land Trust. Although the choices for landowners are often confusing at first, we can help you figure out which method is best for you.
Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of land preservation:
• Farmland preservation is designed for working farms and often involves attaching an easement to the deed that limits the protected areas to agricultural uses. In most cases, the landowner retains ownership of the property and can sell it at a later date.
• Open space preservation is intended mostly for natural areas and involves the protection of natural resources and the establishment of public parkland. This type of agreement often entails selling or donating land outright, but in some cases a conservation easement is placed on the property and the landowner retains ownership.
In both cases, limitations on the property “run with the land,” which means they are passed from owner to owner. The land is protected “in perpetuity” and can never be developed.
Donating Conservation Easements and Property
For many landowners, donating land or a conservation easement is a useful estate planning tool. A donation of real estate can generate federal and state income tax deductions, offset capital gains tax, and reduce estate tax liabilities for your heirs.
Property donated to the Hunterdon Land Trust that meets our land protection criteria is permanently preserved. The land is managed to protect its conservation resources and provide appropriate public access. Farms donated to the Land Trust are protected with an agricultural easement that allows farming but restricts development. The farm is then sold to a farmer and remains in agricultural use.
Landowners who want to preserve their land but continue to own and use it for their lifetime can donate the property through their will or with a reserved life estate.
Selling Conservation Easements and Property
In some cases, landowners have the option to sell their property or an easement. We are fortunate in New Jersey to have open space and farmland preservation funding through various government agencies and nonprofit organizations like the Hunterdon Land Trust. In some cases, we help landowners work with one of the established government programs. In others, we enter into an agreement directly with the landowner and take the leading role in funding the transaction.
The purchase of land and easements is based on the property’s fair market value as established by licensed, private appraisers. Funding is limited and in great demand, so landowners are encouraged to consider the tax benefits of a bargain sale as it may generate tax savings for the landowner.
For more information about preserving your land, please contact Kate Buttolph, Land Acquisition and Stewardship Director. Tel: 908-237-4582. e-mail: kate(at)hunterdonlandtrust.org