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Preservation Methods

In recent decades, Southern New Hampshire has experienced tremendous growth and development. Land values have risen sharply as the demand for housing outstrips the supply. Tax pressures and changing demographics induce even long-time residents to consider selling their land. One of the difficulties faced by preservation groups is that land often sells quickly. We may have a piece targeted for protection for years, develop a relationship with a landowner, and know just how a parcel fits into our plans. But when the decision to sell is made, it's often under financial or other pressure, and developers who have also been watching patiently have the resources to step in and offer money immediately. As land prices escalate, the Land Trust continues to explore new ways of funding purchases.

To protect and preserve land in this market, we must be able to act quickly and decisively. As a private, not-for-profit Corporation, the Amherst Land Trust has maximum flexibility in approaches to preserving land. Sometimes the Land Trust steps in to purchase property because Amherst or surrounding towns cannot act until after Town Meeting. Sometimes landowners are more comfortable working with a private corporation. It is our intention always to work cooperatively, not competitively with Conservation Commissions.

The Land Trust has developed a variety of approaches to preserving land. See the Land Trust Alliance and Upper Valley Land Trust for more information about these and other methods.

Selective subdivision: The Land Trust can buy a large parcel, subdivide a portion to cover costs, and preserve the remaining land (this was the approach used on the Huckabee Farm).

Alternatively, the Land Trust can buy the land, place conservation easements on some or all of it, and sell it to one or more buyers who are interested in the restricted use of the land. This method could be used, for example, to preserve former dairy farms as equestrian facilities or "estate properties."

Bargain sale: a landowner can choose to sell property to the Land Trust at a below-market price. With the correct documentation, the difference becomes a tax-deductible donation, possibly offsetting capital gains tax on the sale.

Donating or selling an easement enables a landowner to continue using the land while protecting it from future development. The reduction in the value of the land may provide property and estate-tax benefits. (This is the option chosen by the Dinkels.)

Designated donations: The Land Trust can create a fund for a specific purpose to which tax-deductible donations can be made. For example, if five neighbors chipped in to buy a piece of land in their neighborhood, their shares would not typically be tax deductible. If the same people donated the same funds to a nonprofit, they would be. The Land Trust can accept donations, as it did for the Lindabury Orchard. (If the Land Trust were unable to raise sufficient funds to purchase the property, the funds would be returned to the donors.)