What We Conserve
- Wildlife Habitat – We hope to conserve critical areas of land supporting a diversity of species from stream insects to large mammals.
- Stream Access – EC hopes to secure land as key public access points for fishing, boating and nature appreciation.
- Scenic Vistas – The Appalachian foothills in and around Indiana County contain the region’s most ecologically diverse flora and fauna, as well as scenic valleys, ridges and woodlands. In this region, there is much to be preserved.
- Land in Need of Restoration – Unfortunately, while economically important for our region, past work by local coal and energy industries has caused many streams and properties to become polluted. EC is working with other area organizations in the restoration of those properties.
- Working Landscapes – Unplanned, urban sprawl can convert a community from agricultural land to pavement. We want to keep our area green while supporting planned growth.
- Historical and Cultural Sites – From the underground railroad to the legends of the Ghost Town Trail, this region has a rich historical background that is still unfolding and being rediscovered. We want to help our region keep its historical roots for future generations.
What is a Conservation Easement?
–A Conservation Easement is legal agreement between landowner and conservation organization
– Permanently limits future development and subdivision of property (doesn’t limit development in subdivision set aside for owner)
– Each is unique, written to protect the conservation values of the land and to meet landowner’s goals
– The land remains private property
– Farming and timber harvesting can continue with best management practices
– The property stays on tax rolls
– An easement is different than deed restriction because it’s upheld by organization who will visit the property every year to be sure the terms are upheld (in a deed restriction – no one monitors)
– The owner’s use of land typically doesn’t change
What happens if the Conservancy with the contract goes out of business?
– Someone can be designated else to takeover if something happens
– If something happens to the Conservancy it goes to court and judge determines an appropriate entity to take it on.
Stewardship is an important part of an easement
The Conservancy needs to check on easements. The Conservancy is legally responsible for it. The Conservancy would plan for the stewardship responsibilities by:
– Recording baseline information utilizing photography, GIS, GPS (doesn’t necessarily need to be too fancy; typically only surveyed if property lines are not positive – if it’s very clear then it’s not necessary)
– Annual monitoring of protected properties and Upholding easements
– Documenting changes to properties (take photos and add to file)
Why would a landowner want to do a land easement?
– It is permanent protection of the land they care about
– They are creating a legacy for future generations
– It can be part of living in a conservation “neighborhood” if adjoining properties obtain land easements
– There are some tax benefits: federal income tax deductions and reduced estate taxes (no PA deductions or credits at this time). It is best for the landowner to contact their accountant for their specific situation.
How easement value is determined.
– There is what is called a “bundle of rights”: timber, right to build homes, mineral, access, right to sell.
– Each one is a right to utilize the property in a certain way and each has value
– The more rights that are donated, the higher the values of the easement
– Value is determined by appraisal
– Example: 100 acre tract; unrestricted value = $700,000; w/ easement = $400,000; easement value = $300,000 ($3000 per acre) * this is the number to take to your accountant *
IRS criteria for donated easement:
– must be donated to “qualified organization”, which we are
– must have public benefit (we may be expected to provide proof if there is an audit)
– must be donated in perpetuity