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Answers to your questions!

(This information below is taken directly from the Land Trust Alliance website, including their fact sheets. To visit the Land Trust Alliance, click  here)

A land trust is a nonprofit organization that actively works to conserve land by undertaking or assisting with direct land transactions - primarily through the acceptance of donations of land or land preservation agreements, and on occasion through the purchase of property. Land trusts vary greatly in scope and scale, but all of them share the common mission of working cooperatively with landowners to protect and conserve land for its natural, recreational, scenic, historic, or agricultural value.

No, they are independent organizations that work with landowners who are interested in protecting open space. But land trusts often work cooperatively with government agencies by acquiring or managing land, researching open space needs and priorities, or assisting in the development of open space plans.

Land trusts are very closely tied to the communities in which they operate. Moreover, land trusts' nonprofit tax status allows them to offer a variety of tax benefits. Donations of land, land preservation agreements or money may qualify you for income, estate or gift tax savings. Moreover, because they are private organizations, land trusts can be more flexible and creative than public agencies - and can act more quickly - in saving land.

Local and regional land trusts, organized as charitable organizations under federal tax laws, are directly involved in conserving land for its natural, recreational, scenic, historical, and agricultural values. Working directly with willing landowners, land trusts can purchase land for permanent protection, accept donations of land or the funds to purchase land, accept bequests, or accept the donations of land preservation agreements, which permanently limit the type and scope of development that can take place on the land. In some instances, land trusts also purchase land preservation agreements or take ownership for permanent protection.

Land trusts also educate the public and advocate for the need to conserve land. They can help landonwers tailor a conservation plan to their individual situation and financial circumstances, and determine the property's conservation values and future ownership.

A Conservation Easement is:  a legal agreement between a willing landowner and a land trust that places permanent restrictions on the uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values.

What does that mean? By donating a Conservation Easement to a land trust, you are voluntarily giving up some of the rights related to the land. The restrictions run with the land in perpetuity, meaning future landowners must also follow the terms put in place by the Conservation Easement. For instance, a parcel could remain active farmland while prohibiting large structures, or the future location of a residential home with limits on size could be specified while also stating limits on land use which protect the important scenic, historical, and ecological values on the rest of the land.

Please contact WVLT with additional questions you may have, or to discuss putting a conservation easement on your property.