Land trusts help Washington landowners conserve their land.
What is a land trust?
Land trusts, also known as land conservancies, protect and steward natural and working lands for the public good. They work with private landowners and community partners to permanently conserve landscapes across the nation. As community-based non-profit organizations, they are structured under local and federal laws.
Land trusts are very closely tied to the communities and landscapes in which they operate. They are known for successfully pulling in local resources, such as volunteer time and skills. They help select and negotiate the real estate deals that make conservation possible. They build relationships with local landowners through mutual respect and trust.
Land Trusts succeed because their approach is voluntary, cooperative and incentive based.
How do land trusts protect land?
The two most common tools used by land trusts to assist landowners in conserving land are conservation easements and fee-title acquisition.
- Conservation easements are a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust that limits certain uses of a property. Learn more about conservation easements
- Fee acquisition is the out-right donation or sale of property to a land trust for permanent stewardship and protection. Learn more about fee land ownership.
For specific questions and more information, please contact your local land trust staff.
What other methods do land trusts use to protect land?
- Planned Gifts
- Mutual Covenants
- Deed Restrictions
- Rights of First Refusal
- Conservation Buyer Program
- Registry Programs
- Limited Development
- Like-kind Exchanges
What types of land can be protected by land trusts?
Land trusts protect a variety of lands, but many concentrate their efforts on:
- Natural habitat for wildlife, fish and plants such as prairies, forests, bluff lands, or wetlands
- Watershed areas like lakeshores, rivers, streams, and other natural features
- Scenic landscapes, particularly those with local community, cultural or historic significance
- Working landscapes like farm, forest, and ranch lands that have special significance for growing food
The nonprofit tax status of land trusts brings them a variety of tax benefits. Donations of land, conservation easements or money may qualify for income, estate or gift tax savings. Properly structured land trusts are exempt from Federal and state income taxes and sometimes from local property and real estate transfer taxes. Additionally, due to the fact that land trusts are private organizations, they can be more flexible and creative than public or government agencies, and can often act more quickly. They can hold and manage land and other assets as a corporation, and are able to negotiate with landowners discreetly.
Reducing Estate Taxes
Perhaps the most important benefit, a conservation easement can be essential for passing undeveloped land on to the next generation. By removing the land’s development potential, an easement typically lowers the property’s market value. This reduces the potential estate tax. Whether a landowner donates an easement during life or by will, it makes a critical difference to their heirs’ ability to keep the land intact.
Visit our resources page to learn more about land trusts.