Conservation Easement Donations
From the forested mountains of Garrett County to the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland has natural areas and scenic beauty rivaled by few states in the nation. You can play an important role in protecting Maryland's lands by agreeing to protect your land with a conservation easement.
Your land matters to you and future generations. By protecting your land: you leave a natural legacy; you improve quality of life; conserve scenic views and wildlife habitat; ensure the future viability of farming and forestry; and preserve the rural character and natural beauty of communities all across Maryland. You can accomplish all of this without giving up ownership of the land you love.
You can continue to live on the property, farm the property, and sell it or pass it on to whomever you wish. You may be eligible for significant tax benefits that can help keep the land in your family and help you save on income, property, and estate taxes.
You can protect your land through a voluntary land protection agreement called a Deed of Conservation Easement. This is a legal agreement between a landowner and the Maryland Environmental Trust, which restricts the future uses of the landowner's property. It is recorded in the county land records and applies to all future owners of the property. The agreement often limits such things as the amount of subdivision allowed on a property, or the number of houses allowed on the property. It does not grant public access to a property unless that is what the landowner wants. Deeds of Conservation Easement are tailored to fit a landowner's individual situation and the unique features of the property. The landowner and the Maryland Environmental Trust work together to finalize the terms of the agreement.
You may also choose to work with us and a nonprofit land trust to protect your land with a jointly held conservation easement. In this case Maryland Environemt Trust and the land trust work together to make sure your land is protected forever -- that the terms of the agreement are not broken.
The major benefits of our conservation easement program are:
- Permanent protection of natural areas, farmland, forest, and historic property;
- Long-term monitoring of the property by Maryland Environmental Trust - the land is protected forever;
- Potential Federal and State income tax deductions for the appraised value of the easement as a charitable gift;
- Lower estate and inheritance taxes due to the reduced development potential of the property;
- A 15-year state and local property tax exemption on the unimproved land.
Conservation Easement Donation Process
To get started, spend some time thinking about your long-term plans for your property. Consider what your goals are for protecting your property.
Maryland Environmental Trust accepts offers of conservation easements on a case-by case basis. Significant rural properties that contain agricultural, historic, natural, scenic, scientific, open space, or recreational values may be considered. Exceptional urban properties of all sizes, especially those that would provide public access, may be considered as well. Please consult our program policy for further details.
To find out if a Maryland Environemntal Trust conservation easement matches your goals and if your property is eligible for our program contact the Conservation Easement Program Team for your county. We often work with land trust partners in the easement process.
These are the typical steps involved in the Conservation Easement process.
Common Easement Questions
Tax Benefits of Conservation Easement Donations
There are significant financial benefits available to landowners who agree to protect their land with a conservation easement including a deduction for federal income taxes and a credit for state income taxes.
In addition, there is property tax credit and possible federal estate tax exemptions. Agreeing to protect your land in the form of a Deed of Conservation Easement can be considered a non-cash charitable gift by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). A qualified appraiser must establish the value of the easement which is then used to calculate some of the tax benefits.
Resources for Conservation Easement Donors