WHAT IS A CONSERVATION EASEMENT?
A conservation easement is a legal agreement entered into by a landowner and a qualified land conservation organization, such as Yampa Valley Land Trust. The purpose of the conservation easement is to protect the conservation values of a property.
The landowner and the land trust agree to certain restrictions related to current and future uses of the property – as defined in the conservation easement (such as limits on buildings, subdivision, topographical changes, high-impact uses, etc.) – in order to preserve the conservation values identified for the property. Each conservation easement is unique and specifically tailored to the land being conserved, as well as the owner’s needs. A conservation easement can provide public access if the landowner wishes, but it is by no means required.
Conservation easements are perpetual and applies to all current and future owners of the property. The landowner continues to own, manage, and use the land according to the restrictions set forth in the conservation easement. Yampa Valley Land Trust “holds” the easement and ensures its terms are upheld but does not get involved in day-to-day management decisions related to the property.
There are many legitimate reasons to conserve land, but many landowners are drawn to the financial benefits that may accompany a conservation easement. These can include federal tax deductions, estate tax incentives, and Colorado state tax credits. In many circumstances, Yampa Valley Land Trust applies for grant funding to pay for a portion of the conservation easement’s value, which accompanies a partial donation of value from the landowner – this is known as a “bargain sale” conservation easement transaction.
If you are interested in collaborating with Yampa Valley Land Trust to protect your property with a conservation easement, please visit our office in Steamboat Springs or call (970) 879-7240.
WHAT ARE CONSERVATION VALUES?
The conservation values of a property under conservation easement can include natural, scenic, agricultural, historic and/or open land resources.
Conservation values are spelled out within the Internal Revenue Code (available here). Specifically, some of the conservation values found on properties conserved by Yampa Valley Land Trust are:
Habitat for a Variety of Fish, Wildlife or Plant – Protection of relatively natural habitat of fish, wildlife, or plants, or similar ecosystems
Open Space, Scenic Vistas, Farmland, Ranchlands and Forestland – The preservation of certain open space (including farmland and forestland)
Historic – The preservation of a historically important land area or a certified historic structure
Public Recreation – The preservation of land areas for outdoor recreation by, or the education of, the general public
YVLT also works to conserve lands providing public access to outdoor recreation.
YVLT partners with both private landowners and public entities to provide these unique opportunities for the communities of Northwest Colorado. For instance, the organization collaborated with the City of Steamboat Springs to conserve lands available for public recreational uses (including Emerald Mountain Park and put-ins along the Yampa River), which is also recognized as a conservation value.