Donating land for conservation purposes is one of the finest legacies you can leave for future generations. When working with the Bethel Land Trust (BLT), donors step through a sequential process that ensures clear communication and sets realistic expectations. We have developed this primer to acquaint you with the process and to answer questions about timeframe and costs.
First Step: Contact Us
If you are considering donating land for conservation purposes, the first step is to contact BLT President Frank Borysiewicz, at 203.733.9998 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also email the BLT at email@example.com or write to us at PO Box 332, Bethel, CT 06801. This initial conversation will help to develop a common understanding of your goals and wishes and will establish a basis for exploring the various land donation methods most suitable to your situation.
When thinking about a gift of land to the BLT, prospective donors should speak to their legal counsel, tax advisors and families about their personal circumstances. The BLT does not give tax advice.
Initial Property Walk-Through
It is beneficial to both the BLT and a potential donor to meet at the property and walk through it to determine mutual goals for the land. If the prospective donor is unavailable, BLT representatives, with the owner’s permission, will visit the property to do an initial assessment.
Board of Directors Review
If there is initial agreement to proceed, the BLT Board of Directors will visit the property together to determine if it fits strategically with our goals for conservation. We would consider, for example, the land’s proximity to other protected open space parcels or corridors, the size of the parcel, and conservation values.
The final determination to accept a donation of land requires a formal vote and approval by the BLT Board of Directors.
The next step is for the BLT staff to begin the work of due diligence and obtaining property details, including assuring a clear title to the property, conducting appropriate environmental assessments, and determining a clear description of the bounds of the property through existing or new survey work.
For conservation easements, the BLT prepares a Baseline Documentation Report (BDR) for the property, recording the condition of the land at the time of the easement, and its conservation values and public benefits, by means of maps, photographs, and other written reports. Copies of documents are kept by both the easement donor and the BLT in its permanent records for future reference.
For outright land gifts, the BLT prepares a property management plan to guide the parcel’s future management.
The BLT then works with the land donor and advisors to define the terms of the gift of land or conservation easement, producing draft deeds for review by all parties.
When all of the terms have been satisfactorily agreed upon and a final deed is ready to be recorded, the BLT will set up a closing with the donor, at which time the deed (and baseline documentation report if a conservation easement) is signed, notarized, and properly recorded with the Town Clerk.
The land donation process takes a minimum of three months. Timing depends on availability of key documents and information, and the complexity of the transaction.
There are some costs associated with donating land or a conservation easement to the BLT. Generally, the landowner is responsible for the items needed for conveyance, including survey costs, legal and recording fees, due diligence fees such as a hazardous waste review, and title search.
When the BLT accepts ownership of a property, we also assume responsibility for the ongoing stewardship and maintenance of the property in perpetuity. The BLT therefore asks that a donor contribute to its Stewardship Fund, to help the organization meet its obligation of maintaining the land. Such a contribution may be tax deductible to the donor.
If you would like to learn more about land trusts in general, and their standards and practices, please visit the Land Trust Alliance.