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

CONSERVATION EASEMENT

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 OR SELLING A CONSERVATION EASEMENT

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 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.

  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

In addition to health and food benefits, conserving land increases property values near greenbelts, saves tax dollars by encouraging more efficient development, and reduces the need for expensive water filtration facilities. Study after study has demonstrated the tremendous economic benefits of land conservation.

Learn more about the economic and tax benefits of saving land! [ Download PDF ]

There are also significant tax benefits available to donors of land or conservation easements. Below is a summary of some of these benefits along with examples of how they work.

Federal Tax Benefits
There are two main kinds of federal tax benefits available to conservation donors: federal income tax benefits and federal estate tax benefits.

Federal Income Tax Benefits

Donors of land and conservation easements may claim an income tax deduction under RS170 of the Internal Revenue Code. The exact amount of tax savings depends on several factors:
How long the donor has owned the property. Benefits are generally greater if owned for more than one year.

  • How the donor has used the property i.e. residence, investment or agricultural.
  • The income of the donor; the higher ones income the more one will save on taxes.
  • The value of the donated property; the more valuable the property, the bigger the deduction.

Federal Estate Tax Benefits
A donor may also save substantially on estate taxes if he or she donates a conservation easement. Under § 2031(c) of the Code, up to $500,000 may be excluded from one’s taxable estate if he or she had donated a qualifying easement. As with the income tax benefits, the larger the value of the donated easement, the bigger the deduction.

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PUBLIC NATURE PRESERVE

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 www.TomsRunPreserve.org for a map and driving directions.

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CONSERVATION EASEMENT

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.

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COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP

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.

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FAMILY LEGACY

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.

LIFE ESTATE DONATION

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.

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CONSERVATION EASEMENT

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.

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CONSERVATION EASEMENT

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.

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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 info@wvlandtrust.org to speak with WVLT’s land protection staff about your ideas.

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