Land Conservation Options

Leave a Natural Legacy by Conserving Your Land.

The Lindley Family of Lindale Farm

TLC’s Leigh Ann Hammerbacher (second from right) presents members of the Lindley family – Neill II, Neill, and Cori – with an official conservation easement sign to display on their organic dairy farm.

Triangle Land Conservancy helps landowners in six counties (Chatham, Durham, Johnston, Lee, Orange, Wake) find the conservation option that will help them achieve their dreams for their land. To learn more about how TLC can help you, landowners in Chatham, Durham, Lee and Orange counties should contact Margaret Sands, Land Protection Manager (West) at, or Bo Howes, Director of Land Protection and Stewardship (West) at 919-908-0052 and  Landowners in Johnston and Wake counties should contact Brenna Thompson, Land Protection Manger (East) at, or Leigh Ann Hammerbacher, Associate Director of Land Protection and Stewardship (East) at 919-908-0060 and

As you think about protecting your land, it’s helpful to have a clear sense of your needs and goals. The answers to questions like these can help determine the conservation options that will work best for you.

  • What is it about the land that’s important to you?
  • What are its special natural, agricultural, scenic or historic features?
  • Is it important to you to protect the whole parcel or a specific part of it?
  • How do you plan to use the land in the future?
  • Do you plan to continue owning the land?
  • Do you plan to continue living on the land?
  • Do you plan to pass the land on to someone in your family?
  • Do you need to sell all or part of the land?
  • Is it important to you to reduce your income taxes?
  • Are you interested in reducing potential estate taxes?
  • Are you interested in reducing your property taxes?
  • Will you owe substantial capital gains taxes if you sell the land?
  • Do you want to be able to construct any additional buildings on the property?
  • Do you want to be able to sell any building lots in the future?

Conservation Options with TLC

Land trusts have many options when it comes to conserving land. Two of the most popular options are fee simple and conservation easements.

Fee Simple

A land trust can conserve land through an outright purchase or donation, in which the landowner sells or grants all rights, title and interest in the property to the land trust. The land trust owns this land, maintaining perpetual stewardship and management responsibility. It may grant conservation easements on land it owns in fee to another conservation organization, agency or local government.

Conservation Easement

A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. This allows the landowner to continue to own and use the land as well as sell or pass it on to heirs.

A landowner may sell or, more commonly, donate a conservation easement. The donation can qualify as a tax-deductible charitable donation if it benefits the public by permanently protecting important conservation resources and meets other federal tax code requirements. The amount of the donation is the difference between the land’s value with the easement and its value without the easement. Placing an easement on property may or may not result in property tax savings.

Perhaps most importantly, a conservation easement can be essential for passing land on to the next generation. By removing the potential for development, the easement decreases the land’s market value, which in turn lowers estate tax. Whether the easement is donated during life or by will, it can make a critical difference in the heirs’ ability to keep the land intact.

The land trust is responsible for enforcing the restrictions detailed in the easement. Therefore, the land trust monitors the property on a regular basis (typically once a year) to determine if the property remains in the condition described in the easement.

Planned Gift/Bequest

Donating land through a bequest allows you to own, manage, and enjoy your land during your lifetime while ensuring your conservation legacy endures. Owners making a planned gift of land continue to be responsible for maintenance and real estate taxes on their property, but removing land from an estate can significantly reduce inheritance taxes. The process for creating a bequest is relatively simple and can be altered should your circumstances or intentions change. We strongly advise anyone considering a bequest to contact us (Bo Howes – 919-908-0052)  as well as their financial and legal advisers before creating a planned gift.

Other Conservation Options include:

  • Mutual Covenants
  • Deed Restrictions
  • Rights of First Refusal
  • Conservation Buyer Program
  • Registry Programs
  • Limited Development
  • Like-kind Exchanges

Why should you consider working with a local land trust like Triangle Land Conservancy?

There are many advantages in working with a local land trust. Land trusts are very closely tied to the communities in which they operate. They can draw on community resources, including volunteer time and skills. A land trust’s community orientation is also helpful in selecting and negotiating transactions. They are familiar with the land in the area and often have the trust and confidence of local landowners who may not want to work with entities from outside the area.

Moreover, a land trust’s nonprofit status can result in a variety of tax benefits. Land and conservation easement donations may qualify for income, estate or gift tax savings. Properly structured land trusts are exempt from federal and state income taxes and they are sometimes exempt from local property and real estate transfer taxes.

Because land trusts are private organizations, they can often be more flexible, creative, and timely than public or government agencies. They can hold and manage land and other assets as a corporation and are able to negotiate with landowners discreetly.

More information on the benefits of working with a land trust can be found in this Land Trust Alliance fact sheet.

Please contact Bo Howes, Director of Conservation and Stewardship, at 919-908-0052 or for more information about conservation options for your land. You can talk with us and ask questions without any obligation.   

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