By Katherine Eddins, Georgia Land Trust Executive Director
While people are busy with all the festivities and wonder of the holidays, land trusts are busy too: working together to help in their unique ways to protect farmland as open space forever.
Farmers who do conservation easements need to get them done by year’s end for tax planning purposes and like most folks, they wait until the last minute to finalize the detail, so easements coincide with the holidays and add to the spirit of giving with lots of new protected land.
I have a farm and work with farmers whose lands make up 50 percent of our 250,000 acres of land protected with 750 conservation easements. Agricultural easements are used as a tool to help safeguard our states’ prime soils on private lands.
A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a private land trust or government agency that permanently limits used of the land in order to protect its conservation values. Agricultural easements allow landowners to continue to own and use their land for farming, growing trees, hunting and recreational activities. They can also sell the land or pass it on to their heirs.
Many landowners want to protect the land so that future generations can enjoy the legacy of a beautiful farm’s scenic landscape including its woods, waters, and wildlife habitat. Landowners have protected amazing wildlife habitat through preservation of working farms and forests across our state.
Landowners are also motivated by the economic benefit of conservation easements, some more than others. Easement gifts can result in significant income and other tax benefits to the donors. An appraisal is required to establish the development and other economic value a landowner is giving up when the landowner makes a donation or sells a conservation easement.
Please contact Rena Ann Stricker, Director of Conservation, if you are interested in exploring a conservation easement for your farm, firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here for more information about the Georgia Alabama Land Trust. Between now and year-end, we expect to close on easements protecting an additional 15,000 acres of land. ‘Tis truly the season for land protection!