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The Livingston Land Conservancy
P.O. Box 236
Brighton, MI 48116-0236
(810) 229-3290

Farmers & Landowners

The Livingston Land Conservancy is one of the nation's 1,200-plus land trusts -- non-profit organizations that are independent of government and work hand-in-hand with landowners who choose to conserve their lands. We work to achieve our protection goals through land acquisition, conservation easements, education, and working with local government:

    Land Acquisition
    The Conservancy accepts key parcels through gift or purchase for permanent ownership. The outright donation of land provides substantial income tax deductions and estate tax benefits. The Conservancy will gladly name the resulting nature preserve in your honor or in the memory of a loved one.

    Bargain Sale
    Land can be purchased for conservation purposes by various governmental units and by the Conservancy. Sales below market value ("bargain sales") involve the gift of a portion of the property's value by the donor. The value of the gifted portion can be deducted from the donor's federal income taxes.

    Conservation Easements

    What is a conservation easement?
    A Conservation Easement is a voluntary agreement between a private landowner and a land trust that limits the type or amount of development permitted on the property in the future while retaining private ownership of the land.

    A conservation easement is conveyed to a government agency or nonprofit conservation organization qualified to hold and enforce easements. Most conservation easements are perpetual. They apply to the current owner and all future landowners, permanently protecting the property.

    Each conservation easement is unique, specifically tailored to the particular land being protected as well as to the particular situation of the landowner.

    Click here to download a copy of the Michigan Model Easement (126 K).

    What types of land can be protected through conservation easements?
    IRS regulations require that the property have "significant" conservation values. This includes forests, wetlands, endangered species habitat, beaches, scenic areas and more. The Conservancy also has its own criteria for accepting easements. At the invitation of the landowner, Conservancy staff will evaluate the property to determine whether it meets these Conservancy criteria.

    What are the effects of a conservation easement on a landowner's property rights?
    A landowner retains all rights to the property not specifically restricted or relinquished by the easement. The landowner still owns the land and has the right to use it for any purpose that is consistent with the easement, to sell, to transfer or to leave it through a will. Typically, landowners also retain the right to restrict public access.

    What are the benefits of a conservation easement?
    Land Protection--Conservation easements are a cost effective tool to protect Livingston County's natural heritage and rural character.

    Living Legacy--Conservation easements give landowners peace of mind, knowing that their commitment to protecting their "special places" will be forever respected and remain an enduring legacy for their family and their community.

    Common Good--Conservation easements allow landowners to contribute to local communities and to the state by protecting the land and water resources that provide us with our cherished quality of life.

    Financial Benefits--Conservation easements may reduce a landowner's tax obligations in a number of ways:

    • Income Taxes: As with other charitable contributions, the donation of a conservation easement may allow the landowner to claim a federal income tax deduction for the value of the easement.
    • Estate Taxes: A gift of a conservation easement may also reduce federal estate taxes, making this an effective way to transfer land to the next generation with its natural features intact.
    • Property Taxes: An easement that reduces the value of the land may result in lowered annual property taxes.

    The rules governing all of these potential tax savings are complex and require the advice of professional advisors.

    New Estate Tax Benefits for Conservation Easement Donors
    The new tax bill signed into law in June 2001 expands a conservation tax incentive. Section 551 of the law removes the geographic limits from IRC 2031(c), the American Farm and Ranch Protection Act. Now, a conservation easement donor is eligible for an additional exclusion from estate tax of up to $500,000, beyond the exclusion of the value of the easement itself regardless of where the land is situated.

    The new law is of greatest benefit to those who inherit valuable land during the next nine years, when estate taxes will continue. Those individuals can use 2031(c) to make a postmortem election to donate a conservation easement, which could save them considerable estate taxes.

    If a person wants to conserve their family's land, they should donate a conservation easement on it, and do it while they are alive. They can receive a substantial income tax deduction, the value of the donated easement (which you do not get if it is donated in a will or post-mortem); they will have done the right thing; and if there is an estate tax when they die, their heirs will also be glad they did.

    The tax law provisions are complicated and we advise that you consult a knowledgeable estate planner or tax attorney. For additional information please contact the Conservancy.