April 23, 2016, Coot Hill Bird Walk & Hawk Watch – Our Outreach Committee has developed a schedule of interesting outings for you for the spring and summer. First up is the Coot Hill Bird Walk and Hawk Watch. Meet naturalist Gregg Van Deusen at 9:00 a.m. at the cemetery at the end of Lang Road in Moriah for the short hike to the Coot Hill overlook where you will enjoy fabulous views and look for Osprey, Red-Tailed Hawks, Northern Harriers, Kestrels and more! Click here for more information and to register for this and our other upcoming events.
May 14, 2016, Grand Hike to the Essex Inn – REGISTER NOW for the CATS THIRD GRAND HIKE! Begin in Wadhams and hike to the Essex Inn. Enjoy the BLOCK PARTY with live music, food and drinks, and restorative yoga and massage!
The next “Third Saturday” project will be April 16. Meet at the Dogwood Bread Company at 9:00 a.m. We will continue to work on the trail for The Grand Hike. Call (518-962-2287) or email (email@example.com) the CATS office for more information or to let us know you can join us.
Sunday, April 10, 2016 – Join a group on the Blueberry Hill Trails in Elizabethtown for a work session on Joel’s Trail. Meet at the base of the trail (Bronson & Cabin intersection). Bronson has been in pretty good conditions, so you should be able to drive up to the sand lot. The group will be working on general spring clean up. Bring tools if you have them.
Trail of the Week
If you’re interested in hiking the “fire tower” mountains of the Adirondacks, Belfry Mountain is a good place to start. The trailhead is located on Dalton Hill Road, 3 miles south of Lincoln Pond and 1 mile north of Witherbee and is a short, easy hike to the fire tower and its great views.
Part 9 – Paying the Conservation Easement Costs
Conservation easements are a great way to conserve land and as we discussed in Part 8, they do come with costs—the price of purchasing the CE and paying the associated transaction costs. Thankfully, there can be funding to cover some costs and for donated easements, tax benefits that make up for expenditures.
Paying for the CE
- Donation – Some landowners are in a position where they can donate the conservation easement or sell it below its appraised value (called a “bargain sale”). The federal and state governments offer tax benefits to the landowner because that donation is counted as a non-cash charitable contribution. New York is unique in providing an income tax credit of 25% of the property tax up to $5,000. That credit applies to the present owner and all subsequent owners of the property. It does not lower the property taxes paid on the property but allows the landowner to deduct that amount from NY State income taxes. Click HERE to request more information about tax benefits of donated CEs.
- Purchase with privately-raised funds – The land trust can buy the CE using its “land protection fund” that people have donated to for that purpose. Alternatively, the land trust might fundraise to buy a CE on a certain property. Or a donor could set up a specific fund the land trust uses to protect land. An inspiring local example is the Klipper Family Fund that the Open Space Institute (OSI) has used to protect several local properties.
- Grants – The land trust can apply to private foundations for grants to pay for conservation easements. It can also apply for state and federal grants. New York has a Farmland Protection Program that pays 75% of the cost to purchase conservation easements on farmland. The remaining 25% can come from other grants, private funds, or doing a bargain sale. Here in the Champlain Valley, a number of farms have been conserved through this program.
Transaction costs of a CE
These expenses can be a big deterrent to getting a CE because it can easily add more than $30,000 of costs—this includes survey, appraisal, lawyers, and stewardship endowment. For a donated CE, the landowner may be asked to contribute this and some can do that. But in many cases, it is simply too much. Fortunately, there are a few ways to address these costs.
- New York State’s Conservation Partnership Program, funded by the Environmental Protection Fund and administered by the Land Trust Alliance, offers “transaction grants” that pay for the survey, appraisal, staff time, closing costs, and even costs of enhancing public access, meaning trails. It’s a matching grant program so the land trust matches some of the grant reward with funds and/or staff and volunteer time. This wonderful state program can cover a substantial amount of the CE costs.
- Privately funded programs are another opportunity to address CE costs. Donors can give to a land trust’s land protection fund which can pay those costs. If they’ve set up a special land protection program like OSI’s Klipper Family Fund, the funds can be used to pay transaction costs, especially for donated conservation easements and those acquired through bargain sales.
- New York’s Farmland Protection Program grants can pay transaction costs in addition to purchasing the CE on properties approved for grant funding but the Champlain Valley hasn’t received any grants to protect farmland for a number of years.
- Stewardship Endowment – Few programs pay for this cost, so the land trust can raise funds specifically for that purpose or ask the landowner to donate for that purpose, which can be structured over time.
In sum, CE’s are costly. Thankfully there are generous landowners, donors, foundations, and government programs that address those costs. Nevertheless, the expenses can be a barrier to protecting a property with a CE. And that is a challenge all land trusts address as they work to conserve natural areas, farmland, scenic vistas, and clean water.
CATS Executive Director
- What is a Conservation Easement? (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- A Summary of the Conservation Easement Process (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Determining Value of Conservation Easements (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- What’s in a Conservation Easement? (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Local Examples of Conservation Easements (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- More Work to Do at Split Rock Wildway (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Old-Growth Forest Network Recognizes Dickenson’s Point (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)