Protect Your Land

Every property that is conserved by the West Virginia Land Trust (WVLT) comes with a story. We’d like to hear yours!

Before starting a new project, we evaluate a property’s conservation values, which may include important habitats, cultural or historical significance, water quality benefits, recreational opportunities, working farms and forests, and more. We like to aim for a “win-win” by achieving goals that meet the needs of both a landowner and WVLT.

The information on this page is designed to help you learn more about available options for working with WVLT to protect your special place forever.

Inquire About Protecting Your Land


WVLT’s mission directs our organization to protect lands and waters having a wide range of “conservation values” (see list below). Our goal is to protect special places throughout West Virginia with an emphasis on community impact and public benefit. WVLT’s financial resources and capacity for land protection projects require us to be selective about our annual project load. We focus our attention on places and projects that will support human communities with land and water that provides ecological, social, and economic benefits. We strive to bolster available resources and project success through partnerships with communities, government agencies, and other organizations with mutual goals and shared expertise.


• Public recreation areas
• Nature preserves
• River access sites
• Drinking water protection areas
• Historical and cultural sites
• Forests
• Farms


The process for large and small projects is often the same. Larger properties typically offer more
conservation benefits in relation to time and effort invested into a project. Protecting smaller acreages may still provide exceptional outcomes, such as a conserving a rare marsh or historical site or ensuring access to trails and waterways. Regardless of your property’s size, we are always
happy to have a conversation about land conservation.


WVLT serves landowners and communities in every county across West Virginia.


• Wetlands, riparian areas, and floodplains which are important to water quality
• Habitats (and associated wildlife and plants) that support West Virginia’s unique natural heritage
• Mature or well-managed timber stands representative of productive native forests
• Scenic areas and rural landscapes
• Resilient landscapes—natural strongholds, intact landscapes, and river corridors that support nature in a changing climate
• Adjoining public lands or parks
• Productive farmland
• Outdoor education
• Scientific research
• Restoration sites


WVLT’s staff and Board of Directors assess the conservation values and expected benefits from each proposed conservation project to determine our annual project list. When WVLT is unable to assist a landowner and/or community with their land protection goals, we make efforts to connect them with other relevant partners and resources. Please share your land protection idea and property information by submitting a Property Information Form to initiate our evaluation.


Donating a property to WVLT means that we take ownership and the responsibly for protecting your special place. This perpetual commitment is guided by your wishes. Whether you envision your land as a nature preserve, public recreation area, working farm or forest, or some other land use, it is important to clarify up front that your goals align with WVLT’s mission.

Donating land involves transferring a deed of ownership to WVLT either during your lifetime or after death. Donating during your lifetime means that you might qualify for significant tax benefits, while donating after death (through your will) offers a reduced (but still significant) benefit that may accrue to your estate.


Selling land to WVLT is also an option for properties that exhibit conservation values aligned with our mission. However, our organizational policies do not allow us to pay more than fair market value, which is determined in an appraisal prepared by a qualified appraiser. WVLT will negotiate the sale price with landowners. A landowner may also consider selling a property to WVLT at a price below fair market value, known as a “bargain sale”. The difference between the fair market value and the bargain sale price may provide the seller with a charitable income tax deduction. A bargain sale also benefits WVLT because it reduces the amount of fundraising needed to complete the deal.


A conservation easement is a voluntary contract negotiated between a landowner and WVLT, in which the owner places permanent restrictions on future uses of their property to protect scenic, agricultural, wildlife, forest, or other significant attributes (conservation values). The restrictions usually include limiting subdivision, commercial or industrial development, deforestation, conversion of farmland, and
destruction of streams, wetlands, caves, and other special natural areas. Conservation easements are unique to each property, meaning they address site-specific conservation values and are tailored to meet the individual goals of landowners.

After signing a conservation easement, the document is recorded in a county courthouse and becomes a legal instrument that obligates and gives WVLT the authority to visit the property at least once annually to ensure compliance with the conservation easement terms and to protect the easement in perpetuity. In the future, if a landowner does not adhere to the terms of an easement, WVLT will document these conditions and first communicate “good faith” efforts that can be taken to remedy any issues or misunderstandings. If necessary, WVLT has a right and obligation to take legal actions to remedy an easement violation. WVLT’s commitment to a conservation easement is something that we take on forever!


Donating a conservation easement to WVLT is typically the preferred and most effective way to ensure the long-term protection of your special place when considering an easement option. The value of a donated conservation easement typically qualifies as a charitable tax deduction on the donor’s federal income tax return. In exceptional circumstances, WVLT may consider purchasing a conservation easement from a landowner if it meets certain conservation requirements. Selling an easement typically does not offer tax benefits unless a landowner is willing to consider a bargain sale (reduced price). Bargain sales are also negotiated to make a project more affordable and practical for WVLT to complete.

Whether donating or selling a conservation easement, a landowner retains ownership and use of the property. They still have a right to sell the property or leave it to their heirs. The negotiated restrictions are in place forever and WVLT is obligated to monitor and enforce the conditions of the easement.


Establishing a life estate allows you to transfer your property to WVLT now, while continuing to live on it for the rest of your life. This retained life estate arrangement ensures your property is protected for agreed upon purposes and may also provide both you and your estate with significant tax benefits.

Under this scenario, a landowner gives a property to WVLT and retains lifetime rights to live on and use the property. To assure that neither party undertakes unwanted or destructive activities on the property during the period of the life estate, general land use allowances and/or restrictions need to be defined in the deed. The deed also identifies responsible parties for upkeep, maintenance, and replacement of residences and necessary appurtenances on the property during the period of the life estate.


A gift to WVLT in your will is a simple yet powerful way to support conservation beyond your lifetime. A charitable bequest may be as simple as including a few sentences in your will that allows you to leave WVLT a specific item, an amount of money, land, percentage of your estate, or other gift. WVLT requests that these options are discussed up front, so the terms are understood by both parties. In case a land donation does not meet WVLT’s conservation criteria, we would ask to discuss disposition options, including whether a donor will allow us to divest the property in the future to otherwise support our mission. If such a scenario occurred, a donor could also request that WVLT place a conservation easement on the property prior to divestment in order to prevent subdivision or development, ultimately assuring the long-term protection of the property.

Leaving a bequest to WVLT in your will allows time to establish comfort with WVLT but also provides flexibility to change your mind about a donation in your lifetime.


In some cases, a land donation does not include conservation values that match WVLT’s mission. WVLT is still open to accepting the donation and later selling or trading it. This option can become part of a strategy to protect other special places with higher conservation values. WVLT never takes these actions without getting direct consent of the donor.


In certain cases, a landowner may own a property that provides critical access to existing trails, rivers, or adjoining parks. By designating a recreational use right-of-way held by WVLT, a landowner can affirm continued use and guarantee permanent access to these areas into the future.


Permanently protecting land requires expenditures for WVLT. These costs are covered by WVLT, the landowner, or a combination of other funding sources. These costs may include the following:

  1. Legal Counsel
  2. Title Report
  3. Appraisal
  4. Survey
  5. Environmental Hazard Assessment
  6. Baseline Documentation Report
  7. Monitoring and Legal Defense


  1. Donations from individuals
  2. Project-specific fundraising
  3. Grants
  4. Government programs
  5. Landowner contributions


We partner with communities and organizations to support their conservation success too! In certain situations, WVLT makes loans to other organizations, co-writes grants, and co-holds properties. For more information on our partners, check our website at



Toms Run Preserve — Toms Run Preserve originally came to WVLT as a land donation in 1995 by Elizabeth Zimmermann. The original 84 acres was referred to as “Elizabeth’s Woods” with the intent to create a public nature preserve. In 2017, we purchased two neighboring properties, expanding the preserve to its current size of 318 acres! The preserve offers hiking and nature enjoyment. Visit for a map and driving directions.



Peuleche Organic Farm — This 110-acre organic farm is in the headwaters of the Elk River. A conservation easement protects the land from further residential development, maintains the unique agricultural qualities, and protects headwaters and riverbanks for an ecologically important river and trout fishery.



Needleseye Park — In 2017, we partnered with the City of Oak Hill to purchase 283 acres of land. The West Virginia Outdoor Heritage Conservation Fund provided a significant portion of the funding; West Virginia Land Trust and the City of Oak Hill also made contributions. Nearly two years after the purchase, WVLT transferred ownership to the City of Oak Hill, while retaining a conservation easement on the property. This public park is an “outdoor mecca” for climbing, hiking, and mountain biking – adding yet another option for tourism in the New River Gorge region.



Marie Hall Jones Ancient Forest Preserve — In 1972, Marie Hall Jones bid against timber companies on the Doddridge County courthouse steps to purchase a property with the dream of protecting it. Allen Jones donated the 190-acre property in Doddridge County to WVLT in 2016, to uphold his mother’s wishes to see that this untouched forest be protected forever. The natural features include a seasonal stream and a 15-acre stand of old-growth trees, ranging from 160 – 300 years of age. We manage the property under guidelines outlined in the deed, which require keeping the property in its natural condition, while accommodating hiking and nature study.


Greenbrier River Preserve — Many paths can lead to permanent land protection and having a range of options for landowners to consider is essential to WVLT’s success. For one generous family with 67 acres bordering the Greenbrier River, the conservation mechanism of choice was a life estate… this was a first for us. With this transaction, the family members transferred ownership of their property to us but retained full use and enjoyment of their property during their lifetimes.



Working Farm and Forest — In Pocahontas County sits a 912-acre working family farm and forest owned by the Hevener family. The farm has been in their family since 1853. Placing a conservation easement on this farm protects it from being subdivided and developed, ensures the protection of a native brook trout stream, and provides for good agricultural use and properly managed forest for potential income.



Jefferson County Easements — Joining together with the Potomac Valley Audubon Society (PVAS) and a private landowner in the Eastern Panhandle, WVLT permanently protected an historic property with globally rare habitats under two conservation easements. PVAS manages the properties as the Cool Spring Preserve, which includes a nature center and trails that serve youth groups and the community. The easements are located within a drinking water protection area for Charles Town Utilities and protect water quality, a globally rare Shenandoah Wet Prairie Marsh, and exceptional bird and pollinator habitats.


  1. Complete and submit a Land Preservation Information Form
  2. Site visit to property with West Virginia Land Trust staff
    1. View property and evaluate its conservation values
    2. Discuss conservation and other goals (estate planning, financial)
    3. Review the West Virginia Land Trust’s conservation goals and capacity to undertake the project
    4. Evaluate the project budget and responsible parties
    5. Consider the funding and commitment for the long-term stewardship of the property
  3. Follow the Project Approval Process by West Virginia Land Trust’s Board of Directors
  4. Prepare an Option Agreement or Letter of Intent, outlining each party’s responsibilities and expectations
  5. Secure a Title Report and Title Insurance
  6. Secure a modern boundary Survey and Legal Property Description
  7. Secure an Environmental Hazard Assessment
  8. Work with the landowner to draft the Deed or the Conservation Easement
  9. Secure a Fair Market Value Appraisal, as necessary
  10. Prepare a Baseline Document Report
  11. Close on Conservation Easement / land project
  12. Record the Deed or Conservation Easement
  13. Completion of IRS Form 8283 tax deduction documents


Like what you see?

Protect your special place forever by filling out the Land Preservation Information Form online or downloading and printing out the PDF version.

Feel free call our office at (304) 346-7788 or email to speak with WVLT’s land protection staff about your ideas.

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