A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust (like Berks Nature) or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. It allows you to continue to own and use your land and to sell it or pass it on to heirs.
When you donate a conservation easement to Berks Nature, you restrict uses of the land pursuant to your wishes. For example, you might restrict the right to build additional structures while retaining the right to grow crops. Future owners also will be bound by the easement’s terms. Berks Nature is responsible for making sure that existing and future landowners comply with the terms of the conservation easement.
Conservation easements offer great flexibility. An easement on property containing rare wildlife habitat might prohibit any development, for example, while one on a farm might allow continued farming and the building of additional agricultural structures. An easement may apply to just a portion of the property and does not require public access.
A landowner sometimes sells a conservation easement, but usually easements are donated. If the donation benefits the public by permanently protecting important conservation resources and meets other federal tax code requirements, it can qualify as a tax-deductible charitable donation. For Federal Income Tax purposes, the amount of the donation is the difference between the land’s value with the easement and its value without the easement. Berks Nature suggests you contact your legal and financial advisors while making this important decision.
Perhaps most important, a conservation easement can be essential for passing land on to the next generation. By removing the land’s development potential, the easement lowers its market value, which in turn lowers estate tax. Whether the easement is donated during life or by will, it can make a critical difference in the heirs’ ability to keep the land intact.
Contact our office and request a Land Protection Application Packet and Fee Schedule to find out if this option is the right one for you and your family: 610-372-4992.