Ways We Preserve Land
Freestyle Farm, Amherst.
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 longtime 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 Amherst 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 and hold property because Amherst or another surrounding town cannot act until after Town Meeting. Sometimes landowners are more comfortable working with a private entity. It is our intention always to work cooperatively, not competitively with conservation commissions.
A few options:
Conservation Easements: 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. Two examples of donated easements are the Dinkel land in Amherst Village and the land around the Laurel Haven Trail on Baboosic Lake.
Donation: A landowner may choose to donate a parcel of land to the Land Trust and take the full value (less any basis) as a tax-deductible contribution, or simply to remove the value of the land from their future estate. The Trow Mill lot in Mont Vernon is one example. (Note that the Land Trust must review any proposed land donation carefully and ascertain that its value meets the mission of the Land Trust. Donors should have their own legal and financial advisors review any such transaction.)
Designated donation: As a nonprofit, the Land Trust can create a fund for a specific purpose to which tax-deductible donations can be made. The Land Trust can accept and aggregate donations, as it did for the Lindabury Orchard and Joshua’s Park. (If the Land Trust had been unable to raise sufficient funds to purchase the property, the funds would be returned to the donors.)
The Land Trust can also accept a parcel or an easement paid for by a group of individuals, and the individuals can benefit from a tax deduction based on their donation. 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.
Bargain sale: A landowner can choose to sell property to the Land Trust at a below-market price, as the Adams family did with what is now Joshua’s Park. With the correct documentation, the difference becomes a tax-deductible donation.
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).
Resell with easement: Alternatively, the Land Trust can buy the land, place a conservation easement 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."
Fundraising: Operating funds are an essential to our work. We incur legal and survey expenses for every project, even when the land or easement is donated. Sometimes due diligence requires an expenditure of funds on a project we ultimately have to decline.
Our primary fundraising activity over the last decade has been the Joe English Twilight Challenge, made possible by the kind cooperation of Freestyle Farm in Amherst. We are always looking for sponsors (corporate and individual) for these events.
In addition, the Amherst Land Trust is able to accept undesignated donations of cash and stocks, and we are grateful for those who have included us in their estate planning.
(Note: The Land Trust can only accept donations if they will be used in accordance with the Amherst Land Trust’s mission, generally including public access to the property.)
Flexible, Creative, Cooperative Options