There are several ways you can ensure that your land will be protected as open space forever. The government has provided tax incentives to help make each approach affordable.
With a conservation easement on your land, you are assured that your land will be protected forever without giving up ownership of the land. Each agreement is tailored to the individual circumstances, and may permit or prohibit special uses (e.g. logging, public access) as agreed between the landowner and the Land Trust. If you donate an easement to a qualified Land Trust, the value of the easement (calculated as the difference between two appraised values: the value of the land at current market price; and the value of the land with an easement that prohibits development) is a charitable donation, and you may deduct it from your taxes over several years’ returns. At the discretion of your town assessor, town taxes may also be lowered as the assessed value of your property is lowered.
If you ever sell your land, the easement (filed in the County Clerk’s office in the deed registry) follows with the land, so that it remains protected forever.
Responsibility of the Land Trust
In order to ensure that easement land is protected properly, the law requires that a qualified Land Trust monitor the land periodically and enforce the terms of the conservation easement.
Because there is considerable expense involved in monitoring a protected property and enforcing the easement, a Land Trust needs to assess a stewardship fee for each easement which it accepts. The landowner is usually asked to contribute the fee, though in special cases other funding may be made available.