A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement between a land owner and a land trust that is permanently binding on the land, no matter who owns it. The landowner retains all rights to own, sell and use the land according to the provisions of the easement. Most easements will not allow for development of the land under the easement. This diminishes the value of the eased land and this reduction in value may qualify for treatment as a tax-deductable charitable contribution.
The tax incentives for conservation easements have just been increased by enactment of the Farm Bill, which became law when the Senate recently overrode a Presidential veto of the bill, following an earlier House override.
Highlights of the expanded tax incentives, which are retroactive to January 1, 2008 and apply to qualifying easements placed on properties through December 2009, include the following:
- Deductions shield 50% (vs. the previous 30%) of annual adjusted gross income from federal taxes
- Any portion of a deduction not used in a given tax year can be carried forward for up to 15 consecutive tax years (the previous carry-forward period was 5 years)
- Farmers who derive more than 50% of their income from an eased property can use the resulting deduction to shield 100% of their income from federal taxes
The financial value of these temporary tax incentives is currently enhanced by the fact that conservation easements are properly valued using comparable sales data from the preceding two years. While the real estate market has slowed in recent months, easements placed in effect in the near future will be valued in part by top-of-the-market sales transactions from 2006 and 2007.
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Flanders Nature Center and Land Trust
Flanders holds in trust almost 2,000 acres of open space in Woodbury and neighboring towns. Two major points of interest are the Van Vleck Farm Sanctuary, home to the Flanders main teaching campus, and the Whittemore Sanctuary, with extensive trail systems and natural habitats.
Woodbury, CT 06798
Litchfield Land Trust
The Litchfield Land Trust holds three major preserves: the 302 acre Prospect Mountain Preserve lying between Bantam and Milton, the Graham Thompson Preserve along Rt. 202 and the 90 acre Haight property along the Bantam River, which is now owned and managed by the White Memorial Foundation.
Litchfield, CT 06759
The Nature Conservancy
The Sunny Valley Preserve consists of 1,850 acres of farmland, forests, wetlands, and meadows on 19 parcels of land in Bridgewater and New Milford.
Bridgewater & New Milford
Roxbury Land Trust
Over 3,000 acres, or about 17 percent of Roxbury, is conversed as open space under the Roxbury Land Trust’s stewardship. A major point of interest is the Mine Hill Preserve, which is included in the National Register of Historic Places.
Roxbury, CT 06783
Steep Rock Land Trust
One of the oldest land trusts in Connecticut, Steep Rock comprises of over 4,550 acres of protected land. Stunning walks along the Shepaug River and views of the Clamshell from the Steep Rock summit.
Washington Depot, CT 06794
Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust
Is the largest regional land trust in Connecticut with over 8,000 acres of properties and easements in twenty-four towns in the northwest corner.
Kent, CT 06757