Protecting Land Through Conservation Easements
TEA has been fortunate to have the West Virginia Land Trust (WVLT) as a client for many years now. Our role has been to help support and further the mission of the organization to protect special places in WV through voluntary conservation easements. The WVLT is a private non-profit organization that actively works to conserve land by undertaking or assisting with direct land transactions – primarily the acceptance of donation of conservation easements or land. There are several land trusts currently operating in WV which vary greatly in scope and scale, but the WVLT is the only statewide land trust. All land trusts, however, share the common mission of working cooperatively with land owners to protect and conserve land for its natural, recreational, scenic, historic, or productive value.
Land trusts use a variety of tools to help landowners protect their land. The most commonly used protection methods are land donations or the purchase/acceptance of conservation easements. A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust that permanently restricts certain aspects of land use in order to protect the conservation values of the property. Land owners many either donate or sell a conservation easement. When a landowner places a conservation easement on his or her land, he or she maintains ownership and use of the property and can sell it or pass it on to heirs. The land is subject to certain restrictions agreed upon by the landowner and the land trust. Future landowners are bound by these restrictions as well, and the land trust is responsible for monitoring the property and upholding the terms of the easement.
There are many benefits to placing land in a conservation easement. Landowners get the satisfaction of knowing their land is protected in perpetuity and may also experience tax advantages such as income tax deductions, estate tax benefits, and possibly a reduction in property taxes. Land conservation can also have larger environmental benefits such as preserving water quality, wildlife habitat, and scenic view sheds.
TEA provides day-to-day support for the WVLT but also helps guide the organization strategically. For example, TEA is currently helping the WVLT explore ways to expand partnerships with other conservation groups, like the Outdoor Heritage Conservation Fund Board, to help leverage resources. We are also exploring new creative approaches to land conservation like mitigation banking and in-lieu fee programs. Through these efforts, and others, TEA helps the WVLT achieve its goal of land conservation in WV.
To learn more about conserving land in WV and how you may protect your property please visit the WVLT website or call 304-346-7788. To learn more about how TEA can help your organization grow and thrive contact us.