Easement Programs

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Easement Programs 2016-12-10T14:15:14+00:00

Baltimore County has over 62,000 acres under conservation easement and is a leader nationally in land preservation efforts. A conservation easement is a legal document that is recorded and attached to the property deed that places certain restrictions and conditions on the land. The land remains in private ownership. Depending on the easement program chosen, an easement can either be donated or sold. A government agency or non-profit land trust (or sometimes both) agree to hold the easement. Terms of easements are customized to meet various objectives, but they always provide some meaningful conservation benefits to the broader community. A conservation easement runs with the land, meaning it applies to all future owners of the property. There can be significant financial benefits to the property owner choosing to place a property under permanent conservation easement, in addition to the satisfaction of knowing the land and resources will be protected in perpetuity.

VPC staff can answer general questions about easement options. Detailed inquiries should go to Ann Jones with Baltimore County Land Trusts. She can be reached at 410-461-6869 or email at annholmesjones@yahoo.com

For a detailed map of easements, click here

Visit Baltimore County’s “Facts About Land Preservation” for additional information about preservation easements.

In a triumphant victory for wildlife, threatened habitat, and conservation-minded landowners across the nation, the enhanced federal income tax incentive for conservation easement donations has been made permanent. President Barack Obama signed it into law on December 18, 2015. The law provides additional tax benefits for landowners to place a conservation easement – voluntary agreements between land owners and land trusts that permanently limit uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values – on their land to protect important natural, scenic and historic resources. The incentive, considered to be the most important conservation legislation in 20 years, will broaden the appeal of conservation easements to a larger spectrum of landowners. The conservation easement tax incentive benefit:

  • Raises the tax deduction most donors can take for donating a conservation easement from 30 percent of his or her adjusted gross income in any year to 50 percent. Qualified farmers and ranchers can also deduct up to 100 percent of their income.
  • Extends the carry-forward period for that deduction from 5 to 15 years. So an easement donated in 2016 could provide tax benefits for income earned through 2031

For more info about donating an easement, contact Ann Jones at annholmesjones@gmail.com or Megan Benjamin at MET: megan.benjamin@maryland.gov.

“Conserving Our Valleys” is a collaborative project initiated by the Maryland Environmental Trust, the Land Preservation Trust, and the VPC to increase the land base of permanently protected acreage in the Green Spring, Worthington, Western Run, and Belfast Valleys of Baltimore County. The initiative is a response to increased community concern over rapid development and loss of rural character and treasured open spaces. The hallmark of the initiative’s innovative tools is the conservation easement. A conservation easement is a voluntary, legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust which protects the special features of a property by restricting development. The land remains in private ownership while the land trust assures that the terms of the agreement are followed in perpetuity. It is flexible in nature and structured to meet a landowner’s financial and preservation objectives. The severe cutbacks in public funding for land conservation programs underscore the importance of donated conservation easements to conserve our remaining open spaces.

For more information on this program please contact Liz Buxton at 410-337-6877.

Maryland’s Rural Legacy Program is among the few such programs in the nation that designate large blocks of rural lands for permanent protection through conservation easements. Baltimore County has five such designated areas – more than any other county in Maryland. Each area is sponsored by private land trusts and is assisted by Baltimore County. Landowners may donate or sell an easement through this program.

Baltimore County’s Rural Legacy Areas are:

  • The Gunpowder River Legacy, extending from Blue Mount to Sparks, administered by the Gunpowder Valley Conservancy.
  • The Piney Run watershed in the western part of the county, administered by the Valleys Planning Council.
  • The Manor Conservancy, covering “My Lady’s Manor.”
  • The Long Green Valley Conservancy in the Long Green Valley area.
  • The Coastal Rural Legacy Area, in portions of the eastern waterfront area, administered by Baltimore County.

The Rural Legacy Program is designed to protect a combination of farm and forest lands, as well as environmentally sensitive lands such as wetlands and coastal areas. Its primary objective is to protect lands in large, contiguous blocks that will provide the highest value for wildlife and environmental protection as well as agricultural economic opportunity for the future.

If you believe your property is located within one of the county’s Rural Legacy Areas and you wish to participate, please call the VPC office (410-337-6877) or Ann Jones (410-461-6917) for more information.

Quick Facts about Conservation Easements:

  1. Voluntary!  Conservation easements are voluntary and do not require public access.  You retain your private property rights pursuant to the agreement.
  2. You still own and manage the land!  You can sell it, bequeath it, give it to your kids or family or any combination thereof.  The agreement runs with the land.
  3. Flexible!  Farming, hunting, forestry, home-based businesses, non-commercial recreational uses, and a limited number of house sites an/or property divisions are permitted, if they are compatible with the land’s conservation values.
  4. Tailored to you!  Each farmland conservation agreement is unique to the farm and to your vision for your property.
  5. Versatile!  Woodlands, wildlife habitat, streams, wetlands, and cultural resources can all be conserved in the same agreement along with productive farmland, if you chose.
  6. Estate Planning Benefits!  Conserving your land can help with your estate planning, significantly reduce your estate taxes, and often allow for a smoother transition to the next generation.
  7. Tax Savings!  you may also greatly reduce your federal income tax liability for several years. starting the year you conserve your land.  This might help offset capital gains as well.