Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Conservation Buyer Program?
The Conservation Buyer Program links potential buyers with sellers. Over the years, WPC has worked with landowners to protect land either by outright purchase or through donations of conservation easements.
Through the Conservation Buyer Program, WPC identifies current holdings that are available for purchase, but may be sold with restrictions such as development; subdivision; timber harvesting; farming practices; oil, gas and mineral rights; signage and/or commercial use. Funds from the sale of these lands will be used to further WPC's conservation mission.
How does the program work?
The Conservation Buyer Program assists individuals and communities interested in protecting property with significant natural resources, scenic or agricultural values, that would otherwise risk going on the market for development. WPC maintains a list of properties that are available for purchase. This information is shared with conservation buyers – people interested in purchasing property and protecting its identified values through the use of a conservation easement. This land must have significant conservation values. WPC will only share information about properties with qualified buyers who intend to ease the properties after purchase.
WPC works cooperatively with the region's real estate community and does not intend to compete with real estate agents or act as a broker. WPC's role is to educate purchasers about the importance of conserving land in the region (through the use of conservation easements) and to serve as an information resource about properties in need of protection. Please feel free to contact your attorney and real estate broker for assistance with the actual transaction.
How does the Conservation Buyer Program protect land?
When a conservation buyer purchases a tract of land, WPC will then help them place a conservation easement on the property. This easement permanently protects the land and restricts development potential. The conservation easement conserves certain qualities of the land such as open space, forests, agriculture, scenic views or historic preservation. Restrictions that may be placed on the property include limited development; subdivision; timber harvesting; farming practices; oil, gas and mineral extraction; signage and/or commercial use.
What is a conservation easement?
Conservation easements are a voluntary way to preserve land while keeping it in private ownership. The easement is a legal agreement a property owner makes with a qualified conservation recipient (such as a public agency or qualified conservation organization) to restrict the type and amount of development that may take place on his or her property. The easement runs with the land, so the provisions of the easement continue forward into time even after the land is sold. The landowner and the prospective easement holder, such as WPC, identify the rights and restrictions on use that are necessary to protect the values of the property. Donated easements may provide tax benefits such as reduction of real estate taxes and a charitable tax donation on federal income taxes.
What costs are associated with a conservation easement?
The Conservancy must be prepared to monitor and defend all of its easements. The IRS also requires planning for the cost of monitoring and enforcement. If the donor claims a tax deduction for the easement, IRS requirements state that an “eligible donee” of tax-deductible conservation easements “must …have the resources to enforce the restrictions” of the easements. It is standard procedure to establish a stewardship fund, setting aside funds solely for monitoring and defending easements. The Conservancy requests a stewardship donation with every gift of a conservation easement. Generally, the owner of the property makes this contribution.
The stewardship fund acts as security that the landowner’s intent will be carried out and has been compared to an insurance policy. The stewardship contribution is the premium. The Conservancy incurs annual costs to monitor the easement, including visiting the property, taking photographs, writing reports, informing landowners of any changes, and so on.
A conservation easement and certain associated costs may qualify as a charitable contribution for federal income tax purposes. The value of the conservation easement and the stewardship donation are deductible on your federal income tax form as a charitable contribution, up to 30 percent of adjusted gross income for that year and carried forward for five additional years.
Contact WPC's land protection department at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.