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What is The Land Trust for Tennessee?
The Land Trust for Tennessee was founded in 1999 to help preserve the unique character of Tennessee’s natural and historic landscapes and sites for future generations. We are a non-governmental, not-for-profit organization working in partnership with communities, landowners, private and public organizations, families and individuals. Together, we have protected more than 120,000 acres, with more being added each year.
Our work includes conservation agreements, conservation education, planning and more. We also serve as stewards of protected lands, ensuring the landowner’s wishes and the conservation values of the property are upheld.
We are supported by the generosity of the Tennessee community.
How does The Land Trust for Tennessee protect land?
Most often, donations of conservation easements are used to protect important land resources. In some cases, The Land Trust purchases land through community fundraising efforts or partnerships; we do our best to acquire critical parcels of land with high conservation value that are threatened by development when there seems to be no other option for their protection.
What is the scope of the work of Land Trust for Tennessee?
We work statewide to protect:
Historic Land: We protect the context of historic structures and sites while safeguarding our rich history for future generations.
Farmland: Agriculture is a major industry in Tennessee and creates landscapes that distinguish our state.
Recreational/Scenic Landscapes: Conserving our natural resources and open spaces is essential for protecting our clean water, air and places to hunt, fish and play… vital factors affecting the physical and emotional health of the community.
Water Protection: Land bordering our rivers, lakes and streams filters pollution before it reaches our drinking water. If we do not remove the pollutants that our society puts into the air and water, we consume them ourselves.
Urban Open Space: Creating green space in metropolitan areas balances the need for continuing growth and pollution. It enhances our quality of life and fosters a healthy sense of place.
Wildlife Habitat: Protecting these areas holds significant value for the endangered and rare species they support. It is especially important for one of the most biodiverse states in the country.
What is the economic impact of our work?
There is a long list of economic benefits to protecting land:
- Higher real estate values – Homebuyers are willing to pay more to live near a park or protected open space.
- Higher tax revenue – Increases in home prices lead to increased real estate tax collections.
- Energy cost reduction – Conserving trees saves money on heating and cooling costs.
- Jobs – Contributes to the success of the farming and agriculture industry, which employs 10 percent of Tennessee’s population.
- Increased tourism – Supports jobs and drives spending by tourists.
- Health care cost reduction – Public lands encourage exercise to reduce the medical costs of obesity and other conditions.
- Quality of life – Maintaining beauty and scenic character.
- Food production – Protected farms produce food and dairy products.
- Economic development – Overall quality of life is one of the main reasons companies bring business and jobs to Tennessee.
For specific Impact Reports and additional general resources, please visit the national Land Trust Alliance website.
What is a conservation easement?
A conservation easement is a voluntary contract between a landowner and a land trust, government agency or another qualified organization in which the owner places permanent restrictions on the future uses of some or all of his property to protect scenic, wildlife or agricultural resources. The restrictions usually limit the number of future home sites but can limit other uses as well. Conservation easements are specifically tailored to meet the conservation and financial/tax planning needs of each landowner. The easement is donated by the owner to The Land Trust, which then has the authority and obligation to enforce the terms of the easement “in perpetuity.” The landowner still owns the property and can use it, sell it or leave it to heirs, but the restrictions of the easement stay with the land forever.
How does The Land Trust for Tennessee enforce its conservation easements?
The Land Trust monitors each conservation property at least annually to ensure that the terms of the conservation easement are being met. If a violation of an easement is discovered, it is The Land Trust’s legal and moral obligation to ensure that the violation is rectified. Towards this end, The Land Trust holds quasi-endowment fund of sufficient size to ensure that it is financially capable of stewarding its easements and conservation lands in perpetuity. The Land Trust operates its easement stewardship program in accordance with The Land Trust Alliance’s Standards and Practices.
What are the benefits of giving a conservation easement?
A gift of a conservation easement can benefit a landowner by permanently protecting the important conservation qualities of the property without having to give up ownership, providing peace of mind the land will be conserved for future generations. Landowners may also be eligible for significant tax benefits. With the help of The Land Trust for Tennessee, a landowner can both protect an individual piece of land and add to a growing list of private lands that have been protected in this manner and will be carefully stewarded by The Land Trust forever. Learn More…
What are the tax benefits of donating a conservation easement?
The rights a property owner relinquishes, as well as those that are retained, are set forth in the conservation easement. This easement is transferred permanently to a qualified conservation organization such as The Land Trust for Tennessee. When the document is signed and recorded, the property’s current and future owners can no longer exercise the rights that have been given up. However, those rights have a financial value. To determine that value, an appraisal is conducted. This appraisal must be performed in accordance with guidelines stipulated by the Internal Revenue Service.
Here are some of the possible tax benefits of a conservation easement:
- Charitable Contribution -When you agree not to develop a piece of land, its appraised value is reduced. You can claim that reduction in value as a charitable contribution.
- Property Taxes – A conservation easement may reduce or stabilize property taxes, depending on current zoning and land use and current assessed value.
- Estate Taxes – The donation of a conservation easement, whether during the landowner’s life or by bequest, can reduce the value of the land upon which estate taxes are calculated. This benefit can often mean the difference between heirs having to sell or develop the property to pay estate taxes, or being able to keep the property in the family. A conservation easement may be an effective way to pass land on to the next generation in its natural state.
Your tax attorney and accountant can explain your specific tax benefits. We invite you to learn more about Planned Giving to The Land Trust. Or talk to a Land Trust for Tennessee representative to discuss your conservation options.
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