What is a Land Trust?

A land trust is a private, not-for-profit organization that works to conserve land. Usually, land trusts help landowners voluntarily protect properties with high conservation values, such as forests or wetlands, or working agricultural land.

How do we protect land?

The Land Conservancy can protect land by purchasing it or by using a tool called a conservation easement to protect land that is privately owned. A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or municipality that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. Easements do not necessarily apply to a landowner’s entire property, and every easement is unique to a property. Many easements allow agricultural or forestry uses. A conservation easement donation that meets federal tax code requirements can qualify as a tax deductible charitable donation. For more information on conservation easements, please read our Conservation page.

What are the economic impacts of conserving open space?

Many reports have shown that conserving open space in communities around the U.S. has huge positive economic impacts. Protecting open spaces helps increase nearby property values. This can increase local tax revenue without increasing rates. Protecting open spaces can also save taxpayers money. Open spaces provide ecological services, such as clean air, clean water, and flood control, without having to build costly infrastructure to do the same. Protecting open spaces can also create jobs by providing space for outdoor recreation and tourism. Take a look at the Trust for Public Land’s 2007 study, the Economic Benefits of Land Conservation, or the 2010 NYS Comptroller study, the Economic Benefits of Open Space Preservation, for more details.

Are there tax benefits associated with land protection?

There may be income and property tax benefits for donating your land, donating a conservation easement, or selling the property as a “bargain sale” at below market value. The amount and type of tax benefits depends on a variety of factors, including the legal tool you’ve used to protect you land, the value of the donation, your income level, and the total amount of your estate. You should consult with a financial adviser and/or an attorney to fully understand the tax implications. The Land Trust Alliance offers a variety of books and pamphlets that provide basic information on this subject.

Are there other land trusts in Western New York?

Yes, but the Western New York Land Conservancy is the only land trust that serves our entire region. In the south, the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy protects land near Lake Chautauqua. To the east, the Genesee Valley Conservancy and Genesee Land Trust protect land around the Genesee River and City of Rochester. The Buffalo Niagara River Land Trust is working along the Buffalo-Niagara waterfronts. Several other environmental not-for-profits, including The Nature Conservancy, Buffalo Audubon Society, and Nature Sanctuary Society of Western New York own nature preserves in the region, while Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo helps protect urban gardens.