Land Trust and Conservation Terms

Appraisal Report – The Internal Revenue Code requires a “qualified appraisal” prepared by a “qualified appraiser” for gifts of property, including Conservation Easements, valued at more than $5,000.


Bargain Sale – The sale of a conservation easement or land in fee simple title to a land trust or other qualified holder for an amount less than the appraised fair market value. Selling land at a bargain sale rate may enable the landowner to receive certain tax benefits.


Bequest - A gift made through a person's will. Land can be given in this manner in which the value of the land is excluded from estate tax calculations.

Baseline Documentation Report – A record of the conservation values identified in the conservation easement and the relevant conditions of the property used to monitor and enforce the conservation easement. Contains maps, photographs and text, and is signed by the landowner and land trust at closing.


Capital Gains - These are profits made from the sale of land and are claculated using the difference between the original cost of the land and the selliing price. 


Charitable Contribution - a ift of cash or property to a land trust in which, most often, the donor takes itemized tax reductions for the gift.


Conservation – The care and stewardship of natural resources. This is to the protect land and the natural resources.


Conservation Easement – A conservation easement is a perpetual legal agreement between a landowner and a qualified organization, such as a land trust, that restricts future activities on the land so as to protect its conservation values (wildlife habitat, scenic vistas, important agricultural soils, etc.) while also allowing the landowner to continue owning the land.


Conservation Purposes – The purposes a conservation easement must serve to be a tax-deductible donation, as defined by Internal Revenue Code (IRC) s. 170(h) and the associated Treasury Regulations.


Deed – A legal document by which ownership to land and interests in land are transferred.


Donor - A person making a charitable contribution to a land trust in the form of a gift of land, property rights or funding.


Easement - The right to go onto another person's private property or use that property for a specific purpose; a right of way. An easement must be granted by the landowner.


Environmental Impact - A change in the environment that could have a negative effect on the ecosystem. Land trusts try to prevent environmental impacts by conserving sensitive lands. 


Ecosystem - All of the factors that allow a healthy environment to function; the complex relationships among an area's resources, habitats and residents. An ecosystem may include people, wildlife, fish, trees, water and several other living and non-living elements.


Estate Tax - The tax assessed to all of the property and assets a person leaves behind when they die. The estate is evaluated and taxed before it is transferred to the deceased person's heirs.


Fair Market Value - The price that a piece of property could earn if sold to an ordinary buyer on the open market.


Fee Simple – (also fee interest or fee simple interest) A way of describing full ownership of a piece of land, including all of the legal rights of the property. The word "fee" comes from an old English word meaning "land that can be inherited." Less than fee interest is ownership with restricted rights. A person buying land that already has a conservation easement is getting less than fee interest.


Greenspace - A term applied to certain urban areas, including parks, preserves and public or private lands. In general these places are over an acre large, are well separated from manmade developments and contain forests, gardens, grass or other foliage.


Greenway – An area with a critical mass of nearby and connected open spaces which together afford a community substantial benefits such as wildlife habitat corridors, sweeping scenic views, recreational corridors that can support long nature trails and other major outdoor opportunities, agricultural corridors, long buffers for critical water supplies, etc. Fragmentation of nearby open spaces, caused by development, is one of the greatest threats to a greenway. Conserving key open spaces within a greenway with perpetual conservation easements is thus very strategic.


Land Conserved with a Deed Restriction – Land encumbered by deed restrictions and owned by a qualified holder organization, but the land lacks a perpetual conservation restriction held by an outside qualified holder organization.


Land Conserved with Conservation Intent Alone – Land owned by a qualified holder organization with the intent to keep the land in conservation but the land lacks deed restrictions or a perpetual conservation restriction held by an outside qualified holder organization. This is a weak level of protection because there is a lack of checks and balances and intentions change regularly. Good conservation is like good government, it requires checks and balances!


In perpetuity - Always; forever.


Land Use Plan - A blueprint for the future development of a state, county or city, intended to help manage growth. A plan may consider roads, public facilities, the use of commercial, residential and industrial, and the need for open space.


Mitigation - Steps taken to reduce or reverse the impact of earlier environmental changes or damage, usually caused by human activities. For example, if logging removed a bird nesting area, mitigation activities might include planting young trees.


Open Space - An undeveloped piece of land adding ecological, scenic or recreational value to an urban area. Open space can be public or private. Examples include forests, marshes and wildlife sanctuaries.


Option Agreement – A contract made to keep an offer open to purchase a Conservation Easement, land in fee simple title, etc. for a specified period, so that the offeror cannot revoke the offer during that period.


Outright Donation - A landowner gives all (or part) of their interest in a property to a land trust; the trust makes no payment for the land or easement. The donor typically gains tax benefits for making a charitable contribution.


Outright Purchase - On occasion a land trust may pay full price for fee simple ownership of a property. This is expensive for the trust, but may be necessary to conserve an environmentally important piece of land. The seller receives no benefits.


Preservation - Often used interchangeably with conservation. Preservation suggests that natural resources will be left undisturbed, while conservation usually indicates some resource management.


Property Tax - A tax, paid by a landowner, based on the government's estimate of the land's value.


Purchase and Sale Contract – A contract between a buyer and seller for the purchase of a Conservation Easement, land in fee simple title, etc.


Remainder Interest - (also reserved life estate) A landowner may transfer a property to a land trust, but keep the right to live on the land until his or her death. This means that the landowner still has the primary claim to the land and the trust holds the remainder. Full ownership is not transferred to the trust until after the owner's death.


Riparian Habitat - Habitat that is next to, or affected by, water sources such as rivers, creeks, lakes and springs. These areas often shelter plants and animals that couldn't survive in nearby areas.


Steward - A person who manages property on behalf of someone else; an administrator. Stewardship is the act of managing resources; the long-term responsibility for the care and management of land.


Stewardship – Those steps necessary to preserve a conservation easement in perpetuity, including the creation of baseline documentation reports, regular monitoring, landowner relations including successor generation landowners, addressing amendments and enforcing easements.


Sustainable Development - A philosophy of resource use and management intended to meet society's present needs without compromising the resource for future generations.


Title - The legal document that proves ownership interest in a piece of land. A title is transferred from one person to another by the use of a deed.


Trail Easement – A voluntary legal agreement that allows a qualified holder (e.g., a land trust) of the easement to run and maintain a trail or trail segment across a property owned by another party.


Urban Growth Boundary - Often included in land-use plans, this is an imaginary line that separates areas where development is allowed and areas where development is restricted. UGBs encourage development in existing urban areas and preservation of land outside the boundary.


Watershed – The entire area or region of land that collects and drains water (from snow and rain) into a single river or similar body of water.


Wetland - Lands that are normally saturated with water, such as swamps, marshes and bogs. These areas often host plants and animals specially adapted to life in very wet conditions.