Conservation Options for Landowners
Just as the life span of a forest is far longer than our own, a good conservation plan goes beyond individual ownership. There are a number of options available to landowners to protect their land now and into the future.
Conservation legacy planning is personal, and often a family affair. Here we offer our land donors' stories as examples to help you make the best decision for you and your family.
The Foundation for Sustainable Forests is available to help you navigate your conservation options and sort through your goals for the land. There are many ways to customize the options below to meet your specific needs, desires and goals.
Fee Simple Donation
In donating land for conservation purposes you are creating an enduring legacy for future generations. It could be your best option if you do not plan to pass on the land to heirs; own property you no longer use; own highly appreciated property; have substantial real-estate holdings and wish to reduce tax burdens; or would like to be relieved of the responsibility of managing and caring for the land.
Donations can be made during your lifetime or as a bequest. Land donations have the potential to provide significant tax advantages. As always, consult with a tax and/or estate attorney to fully understand your options and responsibilities.
The First Family wanted to see their woodland protected, but also actively managed. Their family still wanted to be able to enjoy the area, so they retained ownership of a parcel containing roadside access and a rustic cabin, and donated their adjacent forested land to the Foundation for Sustainable Forests. Read about the First Family's donation of their Ellery, NY woodland in this 2019 press release.
The Ewing Family owned, stewarded and treasured their forest for over 70 years. Jane Ewing Woods, seeking to ensure the long-term protection and stewardship of her land, began considering a conservation relationship with the Foundation for Sustainable Forests years in advance and decided to donate the property in 2019. Read about the Ewing Family Woods donation in this 2019 press release.
Read Jane Ewing Woods' story in her own words in the "Landowners Tell Their Stories" series of our Summer 2018 Newsletter.
Donation with Life Tenancy
It is possible to donate your land now, while continuing to live on and/or enjoy the property for the duration of your life. Life tenancy relieves you of the taxes and other burdens of ownership and could possibly provide tax benefits. There are several ways a life tenancy can be structured. A conversation with the FSF about your conservation goals and vision for being on the land can help to determine if this option is best for you.
Shared Gift Program
This program is unique to the Foundation for Sustainable Forests and allows a donor to not only protect their land but provide an income stream for another charitable organization or institution, such as a college or university. Through the Shared Gift Program the landowner gifts property to the Foundation for Sustainable Forests with a provision that a percentage of the net earnings from the land go to support a designated charitable organization in perpetuity. The agreement is recorded in the deed. As a land trust, the Foundation holds the property in perpetuity and manages the land for long-term timber production but only as active management benefits the forest ecosystem.
The Bail Family first contacted the FSF in 2016 as absentee landowners who wanted to see their family's land cared for and protected in perpetuity, while also honoring the legacy and memory of their father, Richard N. Bail, Sr. An alumnus of Allegheny College in nearby Meadville, they decided to make a direct donation to the FSF as a Shared Gift with Allegheny College in his memory. Not only will the forest be conserved and stewarded by the FSF in perpetuity, it will also serve as an educational site for the College. Read about the Bail Family Forest in this 2017 press release.
Read the Bail Family's story in their own words in the "Landowners Tell Their Stories" series of our Fall 2017 Newsletter.
Donation via Bargain Sale
In a bargain sale, you sell the land to the Foundation for less than fair market value. This makes it more feasible for a land trust to obtain the necessary funds to conserve the property, while also providing the seller several benefits, including reduced capital gains taxes and a potential charitable tax deduction based on the difference between the land’s fair market value and the sale price. If you need to realize some immediate income from your land but would like to see protected, a bargain sale might be a good solution.
Jean Engle, Glorianne Leck, and additional friends who first purchased the land together in the 1970's, were looking for a long-term conservation arrangement for their land. The "Moxie Collective", as they called themselves, entertained their options and weighed their desire to see the land protected but also realize some income, ultimately deciding to sell the property to the Foundation for Sustainable Forests for substantially less than its Fair Market Value. Read about the Moxie Woods, a bargain sale donation in this 2017 press release.
Read Jean Engle's story in her own words in the "Landowners Tell Their Stories" series of our Summer 2017 Newsletter.
Conservation Easement with Timber Management
A conservation easement is a widely used land protection tool that limits development and spells out permitted uses of the land in perpetuity. Landowners can sell or donate conservation easements to the partner organization, who will monitor and ensure that the terms of the easement are upheld in perpetuity. Landowners retain ownership of the property, and the deeded easement runs with the land.
The Foundation for Sustainable Forests is willing to partner with a landowner to secure a Conservation Easement if the landowner is willing to grant the Foundation the timber ownership and management rights to the property. Without the ability to manage the land, the Foundation is unable to accomplish its mission. Under this agreement, the Foundation will own and manage the timber on the property in perpetuity, but only as it benefits the forest ecosystem. The Foundation will maintain a relationship with present and future owners of the property to achieve the conservation goals of the easement.
The Slagter Family has a long history at its property along Caldwell Creek, and have a treasured family "creek house" there. Torn by the desire to see the land managed carefully and conserved in perpetuity to protect the future integrity of part of the Caldwell Creek Public Access Fly-Fishing corridor, they ultimately decided to donate a Conservation Easement to the Foundation for Sustainable Forests, and along with it the timber rights to the property as a form of stewardship endowment. Read Bob Slagter's story in his own words in the "Landowners Tell Their Stories" series of our Summer 2016 Newsletter.