Watershed Land Trust, Inc.

             Congress Renews Tax Incentive to Increase the Pace of Conservation

On May 23, 2008, Congress enacted a Farm Bill that renews a powerful tax incentive which has helped to
conserve a million or more acres of farms, ranches and natural areas across the US. The incentive had
expired January 1st, but is now retroactive to the beginning of the year and will last through 2009.

The incentive, which applies to a landowner’s federal income tax, will:

 *Raise the deduction a donor can take for donating a voluntary conservation agreement from 30% of  their
income in any year to 50%;
 *Allow farmers and ranchers to deduct up to 100% of their income; and
 *Increase the number of years over which a donor can take deductions from 6 to 16 years.

Landowner donations to conservation organizations known as land trusts have resulted in millions of acres
of working lands and natural areas being conserved for the future.  According to the Land Trust Alliance,
many conservation groups reported an annual doubling of the number of conservation agreements
completed in 2007, in response to the same incentive that had expired in January.   Land trusts in America
have together saved more than 36 million acres from development, an area the size of New England.

The Watershed Land Trust (WLT) Is a nonprofit charitable organization which was formed to hold land in
fee simple and/or conservation easements in perpetuity.  Most Land Trust's mission is to hold vast areas of
land typically in large sections.  With the ability and expertise to work with any Mitigation Bank or In Lieu
Fee arrangement, the WLT is unique in that its mission and focus is to preserve watersheds, waterways,
streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands, and adjacent (riparian) corridors and green space primarily for the benefit
of water quality, ecosystems, and Open Space.  The Arkansas Darter, Topeka Shiner, Pallid Sturgeon, Red
Spotted Toad,  Lesser Prairie Chicken and other species of concern are of interest to the WLT.  

Given this ability to fill a
Unique Stewardship Niche, the WLT is a good choice to be a co-holder of a
conservation easement with another Land Trust or Governmental Entity to protect a legitimate Conservation
Purpose (Click on the links above for more information or examples).  Such a
Conservation Purpose could
be for preservation of fish, wildlife, or plant habitats or ecosystems.  Often times, these will be mitigation
sites or in other words, sites that were created or improved as a result of an adverse impact elsewhere
which will also include the Conservation Purpose of preservation of open space.  If the easement preserves
open space to advance a federal, state, or local governmental conservation policy – for example, it protects
farmland under a state flood control program or to advance the no net loss of wetlands provision under the
Clean Water Act– it may limit public access to the land as long as the limitation does not undermine the
purpose of the easement.  Here are a couple of examples of projects that could benefit from a conservation
easement by or in cooperation with the WLT.

Tomahawk Creek Oxbow 139th and Antioch in Overland Park, Kansas

Kansas River Project

Ninnescah River Project

The WLT may also be an excellent partner for cost share opportunities with Federal funding such as using
State Wildlife Action Plans to Protect Wildlife from Road Impacts or other opportunities.  We may be able to
bring project funding to the table in addition to in-kind match.  For more information click on your state of
interest.

The WLT is exempt from Federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and is
considered a Public Charity.  Contributions are deductible under section 170 of the Code.  The WLT is also
qualified to receive tax deductible bequests, devises, transfers or gifts under section 2055, 2106 or 2522 of
the Code.  

The WLT is pleased to announce the addition of
David L. Pope, former Chief Engineer for the Division of
Water Resources, Kansas Department of Agriculture, to the Board of Directors for the Watershed Land
Trust.  

In a cooperative effort, the Land Trusts doing business in the State of Missouri in cooperation with the
Missouri Department of Conservation has formed a Steering Committee to pursue the formation of the
Missouri Land Trust Coalition.  The Steering Committee is Chaired by the Watershed Land Trust Executive
Director, Frank Austenfeld.  

Mr. Austenfeld was recently added as a member of the Land Trust Alliance national conservation defense
network.  The Network is an exclusive group of experienced, knowledgeable, committed conservation
attorneys and practitioners who regularly share information throughout the country about emerging trends
and current cases, state legislation and policy, serious easement violations and other legal challenges, help
populate legal clearinghouse, write articles, help build good case law, and be ambassadors in their state for
good land trust practices.

The Watershed Land Trust is a member in good standing of the
Land Trust Alliance.

Land Trusts

What is a Land Trust?

A land trust is a nonprofit organization that, as all or part of its mission, actively works to conserve land by
undertaking or assisting in land or conservation easement acquisition, or by its stewardship of such land or
easements.  The Nature Conservancy is one of the most widely known Land Trusts.

Are land trusts government agencies?

No, they are independent, entrepreneurial 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.

So, what are the advantages of working with a land trust?

Land trusts are very closely tied to the communities in which they operate. Moreover, land trusts' nonprofit
tax status brings them a variety of tax benefits. Donations of land, conservation easements or money may
qualify you for income 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.

What does a land trust do?

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 productive values. Land trusts
can purchase land for permanent protection, or they may use one of several other methods: accept
donations of land or the funds to purchase land, accept a bequest, or accept the donation of a conservation
easement, which permanently limits the type and scope of development that can take place on the land. In
some instances, land trusts also purchase conservation easements.

I first heard about land trusts just a few years ago. Are they new?

Not at all! A very few land trusts have already celebrated their centennials, but most are much younger. In
1950, for example, just 53 land trusts operated in 26 states. Today, more than 1,600 land trusts operate
across the country, serving every state in the nation. The Northeast, home of the first land trust, still has the
most land trusts - 581, according to the Land Trust Alliance's most recent National Land Trust Census.

What has contributed to the huge growth in the number of land trusts?

People are tremendously concerned about the unmitigated loss of open space in their own communities.
They see subdivisions supplanting the open spaces where they once walked and hiked, and they want to
know how they can gain the power to save the green spaces that make their communities unique. So they
turn to land trusts as the local entities that have been set up to conserve land.

Conservation Easements

What is a Conservation Easement?

A conservation easement (or conservation restriction) is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land
trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation
values. It allows you to continue to own and use your land and to sell it or pass it on to heirs.

When you donate a conservation easement to a land trust, you give up some of the rights associated with
the land. For example, you might give up the right to build additional structures, while retaining the right to
grow crops. Future owners also will be bound by the easement's terms. The land trust is responsible for
making sure the easement's terms are followed.

Conservation easements offer great flexibility. An easement on property containing rare wildlife habitat might
prohibit any development, for example, while one on a farm might allow continued farming and the building
of additional agricultural structures. An easement may apply to just a portion of the property, and need not
require public access.

A landowner sometimes sells a conservation easement, but usually easements are donated. If the donation
benefits the public by permanently protecting important conservation resources and meets other federal tax
code requirements it can qualify as a tax-deductible charitable donation. The amount of the donation is the
difference between the land's value with the easement and its value without the easement. Placing an
easement on your property may or may not result in property tax savings.

Perhaps most important, a conservation easement can be essential for passing land on to the next
generation. By removing the land's development potential, the easement lowers its market value, which in
turn lowers estate tax. Whether the easement is donated during life or by will, it can make a critical
difference in the heirs' ability to keep the land intact.

Why should I grant a conservation easement to a land trust?

People execute a conservation easement because they love their open space land, and want to protect their
land from inappropriate development while keeping their private ownership of the property. Granting an
easement to a conservation organization that qualifies under the Internal Revenue Code as a "public
charity" - which nearly all land trusts do - can yield income tax savings. Moreover, land trusts, some of which
are more than 100 years old, have the expertise and experience to work with landowners and ensure that
the land will remain as permanent open space.

Are conservation easements popular?

They are very popular. In the 5 years between 2000 and 2005, the amount of land protected by local and
state land trusts using easements doubled to 6.2 million acres. Landowners have found that conservation
easements can be flexible tools, and yet provide a permanent guarantee that the land won't ever be
developed. Conservation easements are used to protect all types of land, including coastlines; farm and
ranch land; historical or cultural landscapes; scenic views; streams and rivers; trails; wetlands; wildlife
areas; and working forests.

How can a conservation easement be tailored to my needs and desires?

An easement restricts development to the degree that is necessary to protect the significant conservation
values of that particular property. Sometimes this totally prohibits construction, and sometimes it doesn't.
Landowners and land trusts, working together, can write conservation easements that reflect both the
landowner's desires and the need to protect conservation values. Even the most restrictive easements
typically permit landowners to continue such traditional uses of the land as farming and ranching.

What steps do I take to write a conservation easement?

The WLT can explore the conservation values you want to protect on the land. Discuss with its Executive
Director what you want to accomplish, and what development rights you may want to retain. For example,
you may already have one home on your property and want to preserve the right to build another home.
That is one provision that must be specifically written into an easement agreement. Always consult with
other family members regarding an easement, and remember that you should consult with your own attorney
or financial advisor regarding such a substantial decision.

How long does a conservation easement last?

Most easements "run with the land," binding the original owner and all subsequent owners to the
easement's restrictions. Only gifts of perpetual easements can qualify for income and estate tax benefits.
The easement is recorded at the county or town records office so that all future owners and lenders will
learn about the restrictions when they obtain title reports.

What are a land trust's responsibilities regarding conservation easements?

The WLT is responsible for enforcing the restrictions that the easement document spells out. Therefore, the
WLT monitors the property on a regular basis -- typically once a year - to determine that the property
remains in the condition prescribed by the easement document. The WLT maintains written records of these
monitoring visits, which also provide the landowner a chance to keep in touch with the land trust. Many land
trusts including the WLT establish endowments to provide for long-term stewardship of the easements they
hold.

For a testimonial about the benefits of a conservation easement click on the following link:

Land Trust Testimonial

For more information on land trusts please visit the Land Trust Alliance web site.
Watershed Land Trust

Frank Austenfeld, J.D.
Executive Director
7211 W. 98th Terr.
Ste. 140
Overland Park, KS 66212

913-685-4600
frank@WatershedInstitute.biz
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