Donating land is an excellent option for landowners who want the public to enjoy the scenic and ecological qualities of their land. Photo by Chris Hamilton
By donating land for conservation, you can help to ensure that future generations will enjoy a place you have cherished. It’s especially appropriate for a conservation organization to own land with recreational potential or fragile habitat.
Donating land may be attractive to landowners who:
- treasure their property and want to see it preserved for the common good;
- own property they no longer wish to use;
- own highly appreciated property, the sale of which would prompt a high capital gains tax;
- own substantial real estate holdings and wish to reduce property and estate tax burdens;
- recognize that greater expertise is needed to protect and manage the land; or
- have no heirs willing or able to protect the land’s conservation values.
Outright donations of conservation land offer several advantages. They are simple transactions that provide maximum income and estate tax benefits (while avoiding capital gains tax), and they transfer ownership and management responsibilities to a nonprofit organization or government entity. Most important, they ensure the land’s permanent protection.
Property not suited to long-term conservation ownership may still be donated to a land trust. If the donor is willing, the organization can then resell the property (protected by an easement, if warranted) and use the proceeds to benefit its conservation programs (see “Donating a Property to Generate Conservation Funds”).
Land donations for permanent conservation ownership can accomplish many different objectives but must always offer a genuine public benefit. Not all proposed donations meet this test. The value of property gifts over $5,000 must be substantiated by a qualified appraisal to be eligible for a charitable gift deduction on income taxes.