This page contains sources of information for landowners about land preservation. If you own land near the Fitzgerald Lake Conservation Area that you’re interested in preserving, we invite you to get in touch with us.
Land Conservation Options for Landowners
The following options may have significant tax benefits:
- Conservation Restriction (CR) – A CR is a legal agreement between a landowner and a conservation organization whereby the landowner retains ownership, but gives up the right to develop the land. CRs are permanent and remain in effect when the land is sold or inherited.
- Gift of Land – A landowner’s gift of property to the land trust is protected and managed in accordance with the donor’s wishes.
- Sale of Land – The land trust may purchase land with important natural resource values, or which is threatened by development, and protect it.
- Retained Life Estate – Landowners may donate property to the land trust but retain a life interest for themselves and their family. This allows them to live on or use the land for their lifetime.
- Limited Development – The land trust works with the landowner to design a limited development scenario whereby environmentally sensitive land is protected as open space, while well-planned development in the remaining area allows the owner to realize income.
- Bequest – A gift of land through a person’s will removes the property from the donor’s taxable estate.
Reprinted with the permission of Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust
Links to More Information for Landowners
Land Conservation Options: A Guide for Massachusetts Landowners
This 38-page booklet is the best source of information we’ve found on the subject, and it’s specific to Massachusetts. Please ask us for a copy of this booklet.
MassWoods Land Conservation Program
Information about land preservation options specific to Massachusetts, as well as information on managing forest land. Includes a list of experienced local professionals.
Private Landowner Network
PLN has the resources to help you learn about conservation opportunities that can assist you with land management, capital preservation, and tax & estate planning strategies. From the basic concepts to in-depth articles and listings of appropriate qualified professionals.
Land Preservation FAQ
I’d like to keep my land undeveloped, but I don’t want to sell it.
A conservation restriction might work for you. Under a conservation restriction (also called a conservation easement in some other states,) you continue to own your land, but you sell or give away your right to develop it. That right has an appraisable value, and that value is tax deductible. In most cases, you can continue to live on, farm, log, or hunt on your land; you simply agree not to build on it.
I’d like to keep my land undeveloped, but I’ve got to think about my family’s financial security. If I sell my land for development, that’ll get me the maximum profit, right?
Not necessarily. It’s worth running the numbers. If you sell land to a for-profit company, you may owe substantial capital gains tax, especially if you’ve owned the land for a long time. On the other hand, if you sell your land to a nonprofit conservation group at a bargain price, or give it to such a group, the tax deductions are so generous, and can be extended over such a long period, that many people can get back the full market value of the land in that way.
If I preserve my land with a conservation easement, do I have to open it to the public?
No, you don’t have to (although you can choose to).
I wouldn’t mind people walking on my land, but wouldn’t I be liable if someone got hurt on my property?
No. Massachusetts state law protects you under these circumstances:
Mass. General Laws chapter 21 section 17C: Anyone who owns an interest in land (including water) that allows the public to use it for recreation and does not charge a fee for that use, is not liable for personal injury or property damage, including to a minor, unless their behavior is willful, wanton, or reckless.
How can the City afford to take so much land off the tax rolls for conservation?
Taxes on undeveloped land are low to begin with. Buying conservation land does reduce the City’s tax revenue by a small amount in the short term, but it reduces the City’s expenses even more. Homes and businesses are taxed at higher rates than undeveloped land, but they also require more City services (classrooms, fire protection, snow plowing, etc.). So conservation land brings the City a net gain, financially as well as environmentally.
(For more information, see <http://www.plannersweb.com/sprawl/reports/rep-mass-community-choices.html>