Benefits of Land Conservation
Land conservation poses numerous economic, health and environmental benefits to our communities. The presence of open space increases property values, aids in the attraction of businesses, and creates new economic opportunities. Open spaces also provide opportunities for nature exploration and passive recreation while improving community health, emotional well being, and quality of life. For private landowners, land conservation helps to protect and provide piece of mind that our region’s unique features will remain unaltered and available for future generations. In many cases, the landowner will retain ownership of the property allowing them to live on, recreate, sell or transfer the property while keeping it protected and taking advantage of some financial benefit. In some cases, private property owners are eligible for monetary compensation, tax credits, and the reduction in property taxes.
Land conservation also helps to prevent urban sprawl. Sprawling development intrudes on rural land, negatively impacts land and water quantity and quality, and can lead to a decline in a region’s overall quality of life. Smart growth, on the other hand, values long-range regional goals, helps communities retain their unique character and sense of place, preserves natural and cultural resources, and promotes public health. Urban sprawl can lead to:
Increases in the costs of roads, schools, housing, and utilities.
Increases transportation costs.
Loss of agricultural lands, natural areas, and open spaces
Increases in the concentration of poverty and socioeconomic decline in cities.
Increases in pollution and stress.
Conservation Easements Protect
Natural habitat or wildlife areass.
Lake shores, rivers, streams, and watersheds.
Scenic landscapes and other land of local, cultural, or historical significance.
Land Conservation Options/Methods
Conservation Easements - A conservation easement is a very effective tool for environmental protection. As a voluntary and legally binding contract that transfers certain property rights from a landowner to an environmental organization, an easement restricts development on the property in perpetuity while keeping the land's ownership in private hands. The landowner can choose to live on the property or sell it at any time. Future owners will be bound by the easement's terms, which will be monitored by the organization holding the conservation easement. The terms of a conservation easement typically restrict activities like additional residential construction or subdivision, but can also permit things like continued farming and agricultural development. Many landowners and their heirs reap considerable reductions in federal income tax, property tax, and estate tax premiums on land that is considered to provide public benefit and affords an opportunity for the permanent protection of important resources. Conservation easements are flexible contracts that can be designed to protect a property's conservation values while also meeting the landowner's financial or personal needs. In some cases, easements may apply to just a portion of a property and need not totally restrict development or require public access.
Sale of Land - The Lake Erie Region Conservancy will occasionally purchase a piece of land that is of high ecological importance to the region or a parcel of land that is valuable to the community and is being threatened with sale or potential development. In most cases, the Lake Erie Region Conservancy will retain the land, but in some situations the lands are transferred to an agency or private owner. Although ownership of the lands may change hands, the property will retain conservation restrictions which permanently protect areas of highest ecological sensitivity.
Gift in Fee Simple (Donations of Land) - The Lake Erie Region Conservancy will often consider a gift in fee simple (otherwise known as the donation of land) from interested landowners. The Conservancy may then retain the property permanently or, occasionally, may sell the property to a private party while retaining conservation restrictions that limit the amount of permitted future development. The donor may be entitled to an income tax deduction for the donated value of the property.