Frequently Asked Questions

What is a land trust?
A land trust is the recipient of a conservation easement. Most land trusts are private, non-profit corporations. A governmental entity may also be the recipient of a conservation easement, such as the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

What role does a land trust play?
The land trust or governmental entity provides property owners with information on preservation techniques, tax benefits, and may accept donated conservation easements. The land trust or governmental entity has the responsibility of enforcing developments restrictions contained in the conservation easements. Representatives of the land trust or governmental entity will periodically inspect the property to verity that it is being used as set forth in the conservation easements.

What is a conservation easement?
A conservation easement is a legal document, which contains permanent restrictions on the use or development of land.

Why do landowners enter into a conservation easement?
Landowners enter into a conservation easement to preserve land. Often landowners use conservation easements to keep property in its current condition. Each easement is individually crafted. Conservation easements may allow additional limited development- some landowners may want to provide home sites for their children or reserve a limited number of home sites as a source of future income.

What form does a conservation easement take?
A conservation easement is a contract entered into between a landowner, who is called a “grantor”, and a land trust or governmental entity, which is called a “grantee”. It is signed and recorded in the county real estate records, just like a deed.

What conservation purposes are required for a conservation easement?
A conservation easement must be made for one or more conservation purposes; these include the protection of wildlife habitat, the protection of open space and the preservation of agricultural lands.

Is public access required?
Public access is generally not required for a conservation easement.

How do I determine if donating a conservation easement is best for me?
Begin with your accountant and your attorney. These professionals should look at this question from your perspective. Your accountant should look at your present financial position, your retirement plan and your business plan. Your attorney should look at your present operation and help you determine how you want to structure your operation for the future. It cannot be over emphasized as to how important it is to obtain competent professional advice before making your decision to donate a conservation easement.

Who determines the value of a conservation easement?
A certified general appraiser will determine the value of the conservation easement by appraising your land, twice. Once for continuing Agricultural use, and once for its developmental value. The difference between the two appraisals is the value of the conservation easement.

What are the tax benefits of conservation easements?
HB99-115 created a tax credit in an amount equal to the value of the donation of a conservation easement, but not to exceed $100,000 per donation.

HB01-1090 increased the maximum amount of the credit from $100,000 to $260,000 effective January 1, 2003.

Additional Legislation relating to Conservation Easements:
HB03-1008 requires sixty days notice to the mutual ditch or Reservoir Company prior to conservation easement acceptance.

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