Protecting Your Land

Legal Requirements

What are the Legal Requirements?

New York State law authorizes the grant of conservation easements to qualified private organizations. It requires that the county planning authority review the easement and give non-binding advice about the easement’s effect on the county’s comprehensive plan, if one exists. Finally, the law requires that the deed of conservation easement be duly recorded.

Legal Requirements Land Trust NY Law

Federal law governs only the tax treatment of a conservation easement as a charitable gift. While you should consult your attorney or a person knowledgeable of federal requirements, in general the following major rules apply in order to receive a tax benefit:

  • The conservation easement must be granted in perpetuity (mortgage and/or contract holders must agree to subordinate to the easement).
  • The easement must provide at least one of the following three conservation purposes:
    • Protection of relatively natural habitat for fish, wildlife, plants or similar ecosystems,
    • Preservation of open space (including farmland or forest land) for (1) scenic enjoyment of the general public and/or (2) significant public benefit pursuant to a clearly delineated government policy,
    • Preservation of land areas for the education of or outdoor recreation by the general public.
  • The easement must be granted to a qualified organization. 
  • The easement must prohibit all surface mining. If the easement donor does not own all of the mineral rights, the possibility of surface mining must be determined "so remote as to be negligible." 
  • Resource data documenting the conservation values of the property must be collected prior to donation of the easement.

What are the Steps in Donating a Conservation Easement?

Once the decision has been made to donate a conservation easement, the landowner and the Nassau Land Trust agree on the specific terms of the easement. NLT prepares a resource report to document the condition of the property at the time the easement is donated. If the landowner intends to apply for a charitable income tax deduction, he or she must secure a subordination of any mortgage or contract holders, procure an appraisal and assure that mineral right ownership does not inhibit the placement of the conservation easement.

Next page: Tax advantages >>

Return to top