Land Conservation & Stewardship
In Texas, 95% of land is privately owned. That is almost 160,000,000 acres of privately owned small farms, ranches, forests, and other working lands. However, some of that acreage is city blocks and suburban homes. The trend of urban and suburban development will continue to grow as the entire population of Texas is expected to double by 2050. This swift growth will mean some of these working lands will be at threat of being developed, leaving land values to rapidly rise. Land conservation is one alternative to lower the costs of owning land or prevent some of that private land from becoming developed.
As an accredited land trust, Green Spaces Alliance is working hard to keep South Texas culturally, historically and environmentally unique.
A conservation easement agreement is a voluntary, legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency. Under a conservation easement, land remains in private ownership, and is maintained in its current natural condition, not developed, thus protecting important conservation values. The landowner retains his or her current use of the property, can sell or pass it on to heirs, and agrees to allow periodic monitoring to ensure that the conservation values described in the easement are upheld.
As an accredited land trust, Green Spaces Alliance is a qualified holder of conservation easements. When you donate a conservation easement to a qualified holder, you give up some of the rights associated with the land, which may include developing or exploring for mineral resources on that land. In exchange, you may receive a tax benefit or you may qualify for a program that pays you for all or part of the loss in value incurred when you put an easement on your property.
An easement on property containing rare wildlife habitat might prohibit any development, for example, while one on a farm might allow continued farming and the building of additional agricultural structures, and one on a high ridge may restrict development, power lines or towers on the peak in order to retain a scenic view for all. An easement may apply to just a portion of the property, and it need not require public access.
In order to encourage the donation of conservation easements on eligible land to a qualified holder, the Federal Tax Code permits qualified donors of conservation easements to deduct the value of the conservation easement in an amount up to 50% (100% in the case of qualified farmers and ranchers) of their income and to carry the deduction forward for 15 years. The value of a conservation easement is the difference in fair market value of the property before and after the conservation easement is placed on the property.
Some programs like the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program (see next tab) may compensate a landowner for all or part of the value of the conservation easement. A bargain sale occurs when the landowner isn’t fully compensated for the value of the easement placed on the property. In that case, the landowner may be able to receive a charitable deduction for the value of the conservation easement for which he or she hasn’t received compensation.
Learn more about the tax benefits for conservation easements (PDF).
Please contact us for your free copy of Conservation Easements: A Guide for Texas Landowners.
The City of San Antonio’s Edwards Aquifer Protection Program works with willing works with willing landowners who voluntarily elect to conserve their land in Bexar, Medina and Uvalde counties. As the goal of the EAPP is to ensure water quality and quantity, a team of experts use scientific criteria including ecological, biological, and hydrological to evaluate the potential of the land under consideration to contribute toward aquifer recharge.
Next, an appraisal is conducted to determine the value of the property with its development rights removed. Upon approval by the Conservation Advisory Board and the City of San Antonio, a permanent conservation easement is placed on the property and the owner is compensated for the value of the of the development rights that have been voluntarily relinquished.
More information on the City’s Edwards Aquifer Protection Program can be found at http://www.sanantonio.gov/EdwardsAquifer