Landowners, perhaps more than any other single group, hold the key to our region’s well-being. Their careful stewardship of our natural lands and working farms gives Southwestern Colorado its unique character. Increasingly, landowners are recognizing the incalculable value of our region’s open spaces and choosing to ensure the future of their land through the use of conservation easements.
Interested in conserving your land? Download or view our Conservation Easement Guide for Landowners!
Frequently Asked Questions
A conservancy or land trust is a private, nonprofit 501(c)3 organization that serves its community by conserving land that is of significant value to its community.
A conservation easement is a legal agreement with a landowner to protect their property from development. The result is that the land continues to belong to that landowner, and the open space is protected for the benefit of the greater community, forever. Not all protected lands are open to the public, but the public benefits by the protection of open space, wildlife habitat, working family farms & ranches, and historical/archaeological resources in our community. Here in Durango, we have the unique partnership with the City to protect public recreational access on city park lands, such as the Oxbow Preserve, and Horse Gulch, Overend, and Dalla mountain parks.
No, a conservancy is an independent, private organization that works directly with private land owners in order to protect their land.
As a local, charitable organization under federal tax laws, a conservancy works directly with landowners by accepting donations of conservation easements in order to permanently protect open space, wildlife habitat, recreational parks, agricultural lands and historic/archaeological resources for the benefit of the community.
As a local charitable organization, the conservancy is closely tied to its community and understands the needs of its landowners as well as the greater community. Also, the nonprofit tax status of the conservancy offers many tax benefits to donors of conservation easements, land, and in-kind and monetary gifts. When it comes to protecting resources, a conservancy can be more flexible and act quicker than public agencies because it is a private organization.
Landowners who love their land choose to donate a conservation easement in order to permanently protect their land from inappropriate development while continuing to own the property. Each conservation easement in developed specific to a landowner’s needs and wishes, and is legally written to accommodate those needs while best protecting the resources of the land. Additionally, donating a conservation qualifies under the Internal Revenue Code as a “public charity”, which can entitle donors to significant tax savings.
A conservation easement is a permanent agreement between the landowner and the conservancy, and remains attached to the land regardless of the owner. The easement is recorded at the County Clerk and Recorder’s office, and is federally recognized in order to qualify for tax benefits.
Yes! You remain the owner of your land. Your conservation easement is developed specifically for your needs and goals in owning, working and living on the property. You voluntarily work with the conservancy to choose limits to the development of your land. Your property does not become government property.
No. However, LPOSC will likely only accept easements that prohibit large-scale subdivision and development for mining, non-agricultural commercial, and industrial uses. They do not have to ban all future development. Conservation easements are intended to be flexible enough to permit limited residential development, as well as permit working family farm and ranch operations. The terms of an easement are decided by the landowner, but the land trust will only assume management if it meets requisite standards for conservation.
Yes! You remain the sole owner of the property with the right to sell it, and the easement will permanently be attached to the property, regardless of ownership. The new landowner will be subject to the same restrictions of the conservation easement that you were.
No. Public access to your property is entirely up to you. If you wish for your land to be public, that may be stated in the terms of the conservation easement agreement, but the easement itself does not mean that your land becomes a public access area.
Does a conservation easement mean that La Plata Open Space Conservancy will be telling me what to do with my land?
No. By signing the conservation easement, you are agreeing to be a good steward of your property. LPOSC is required by law to monitor your property once a year to ensure the mutually accepted terms of the easement are being complied with. We will contact you in advance of this site visit so that you know we will be visiting your property, and you are always welcome to join us during that visit.
Because LPOSC is a nonprofit, charitable organization, there are a variety of tax benefits to donating a conservation easement to the conservancy. Donations of land, conservation easements, or money may qualify you for income or gift savings. The two main federal benefits associated with a conservation easement are possible reductions in income tax and estate tax liability. An independent appraisal of the value of the conservation easement, completed by a qualified appraiser, determines the amount of possible tax benefits. The amount and type of actual benefit depends on different factors, including the value, your income level, and the total amount of your estate. You should consult an attorney and/or financial advisor to fully understand the tax implications of such a donation.
Colorado Conservation Tax Credits are available to donors of “qualified” conservation easements. Colorado taxpayers who donate such qualified easements may claim a state tax credit, based on the fair market value of the conservation easement. The formula is 75% of the first $100,000 and 50% of any remaining donation up to a total maximum credit of $1.5 million. Colorado allows these credits to be carried forward for 20 years, during which time they may be used to offset the donor’s state income tax liability, or transferred one time to other Colorado taxpayers.
Only a qualified real estate appraiser can determine the value of a conservation easement for tax purposes. The qualified appraiser considers the property’s “before conservation easement” value at fair market and under current zoning, as well as the property’s “after conservation easement” value with the restrictions of the easement in place. The difference between these two numbers is the value of the conservation easement.
Yes. In order to complete a conservation easement, a few critical pieces of information must be completed, including the conservation easement appraisal, a baseline report of natural resources on the property, and a minerals assessment of the property. Most importantly, a stewardship fee is included in the cost of an easement, which makes the protection of your land in perpetuity possible.
Interested in learning more? Please reach out to us using the contact link below, or by emailing email@example.com.