land conservation options

Take steps now to ensure the preservation of your property. 

land conservation 101: helping you learn about your options

Protecting your land is a big decision. You value and take care of your land, but there is no guarantee that future landowners will care for it in the same way. You can take steps now to ensure the preservation of your property. Contact us with questions about land conservation or if you as a landowner, neighbor or other interested third party, would like us to consider a property.

How to get started

There are many different conservation options available. The first step is to ask yourself a few questions:

  • What is my vision for the land? Picture your property in fifty years, what does it look like?
  • Do you want to keep owning the land? Pass it along to a friend or family member? Relinquish ownership?
  • Given your personal and financial situation, what benefits would you like to see from conserving your land? Is income or estate tax a concern? Are current property taxes an issue?

The next step is to contact Forterra. If you, as a landowner, neighbor or other interested third party, would like us to consider a property, we ask that you fill out this short property questionnaire.

With so many wonderful places in our region, far more than we can work on at any one time, we must carefully consider each project on a case-by-case basis.

Conservation Easements to Partial Interest

Conservation easements are one way to prevent the loss of this important land.

Land ownership carries with it a bundle of rights—the right to develop, construct buildings, farm, restrict access or harvest timber, among others. A landowner can give up one or more of those rights for a purpose such as conservation while retaining ownership of the remainder of the rights. In ceding a right, the landowner “eases” it to another entity, such as a land trust like Forterra.

Land ownership carries with it a bundle of rights—the right to develop, construct buildings, farm, restrict access or harvest timber, among others. A landowner can give up one or more of those rights for a purpose such as conservation while retaining ownership of the remainder of the rights. In ceding a right, the landowner “eases” it to another entity, such as a land trust like Forterra.

Communities can plan more effectively by directing growth, enabling a community to grow while simultaneously conserving its resource lands and helping to keep farming and timber production viable industries. Conservation easements are a voluntary approach and help encourage growth to occur in more urban areas like cities and towns.

Forterra works with interested landowners to determine the best plan for the future of their land. In some cases, the easement is between Forterra and the landowner, while other times, Forterra assists the landowner in creating an easement with a government entity. A land trust, like Forterra, or a government entity is responsible for making sure the easement’s terms are followed.

Selling Your Land

Often landowners want to see their land protected but also have financial needs. Selling land usually provides the greatest financial gain for landowner, but it is the most difficult to achieve. As a nonprofit organization, we must rely on competitive grants and donations to secure funding for the purchase of land at fair market value. Frequently only properties with exceptional conservation or recreation value, or additions to existing conserved lands, are eligible for grants.

A landowner offering a bargain sale (that is, less than fair market value) to a land trust or government agency increases the chance that the conservation organization can obtain the funds for the purchase. In addition, tax savings realized by the seller may partially offset the financial sacrifice of a bargain sale.

Donating Your Land

Land donation is a good choice if a landowner has a property with significant conservation values that they no longer want to own but are interested in maximizing tax benefits. The full market value of land donated to a nonprofit land trust is tax deductible as a charitable gift. A land trust might retain ownership of the property as a permanent preserve or transfer the property to a suitable owner, such as a government agency.

A gift also can be made through a donation of trade lands- properties that may or may not have significant conservation characteristics. They can be developed or not, and can be residential, industrial or commercial. These trade lands are donated to land trusts, like Forterra, specifically to be sold (sometimes they are conserved with an easement and then sold) with the proceeds going to the land trust.

Donations can be outright or devised through a will. This allows owners full use of the property during their lifetime, reduces the estate tax burdens faced by heirs, and assures that the conservation value of the property is protected for future generations.

Stewarding Your Land

Landownership comes with responsibilities – responsibilities we take seriously. To ensure the maintenance and preservation of your land forever, we typically require funds for stewardship when you donate land or enter into a conservation easement. Forterra stewards the land we care for to enhance its ecological value and make it an asset to the local community.

Ellensburg Farm Kittitas County Conservation Forterra
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