Posted 8 months ago
The Texas Agricultural Land Trust has a new program to conserve Texas agricultural working lands, The Coastal Land Legacy Initiative. Designed to help preserve privately owned lands along the Gulf Coast, the program is grant funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The new initiative is running from June 2016 to May 2018, and is designed to help landowners of working agricultural lands conserve their land with a conservation easement.
A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement that binds a landowner’s intentions to keep agricultural land in use for agriculture. These easements exist in perpetuity and are a binding legal agreement to, for the most part, not develop agricultural land, or give up some right to the land or water. Conservation easements can be purchased or donated. A purchased conservation easement is a one-time payment to help landowners deal with the issues of development vs agricultural values of their land.
One of the goals of the Coastal Land Legacy Initiative is to help match funding sources for conservation easements with landowners. The Texas Farms and Ranchlands Program, part of the Texas Parks and Wildlife, provides resources; the USDA has an agricultural easement program.
Under the donated conservation easement program, the landowner donates the land to a non-profit land trust, such as the Texas Agricultural Land Trust. According to attorney Jake Posey, the landowner can receive a substantial income tax benefit by assessing the development vs the agricultural value of land donated. There are estate tax benefits to both the purchased and donated conservation easements. Landowners with conservation easements retain most private ownership rights, including the ability to work and live on the land and pass it down in the family.
This new program extends to the coastal counties from Houston to Corpus Christi.
Attorney Jake Posey notes that conservation easements are a powerful tool to help landowners pass on land for farming and ranching to the next generation. They help conserve wildlife habitat and natural resources, and have become a powerful tool in protecting farm and ranchlands across America.
The Nature Conservancy provides history and best practices for conservation easements.
Each conservation easement is specific to the land, the landowner, and the goal of the easement. The tax issues are also individual and complex. There is a great deal of information in the public domain, but conservation easements need careful study and collaboration with your attorney.