By Laura Rose Day, 7 Lakes Alliance President & CEO
Have you ever considered conserving your land but are not sure where to start? With the vast majority of land in the Belgrade Lakes watershed and in the state in private ownership, landowners hold significant power to determine whether the watershed will be able to forever support healthy water quality, iconic wildlife, outdoor recreational opportunities and local economies that support heathy communities. Landowners are diverse, and so are their reasons for conserving their lands. Driven by a passion for the natural world, many choose to provide habitat where wildlife such as moose, loons, songbirds and pollinators can thrive. Others want to ensure the many joys of healthy lands are forever passed through future generations of their families. A strong belief in continuing forestry, farming, outdoor recreation and other traditions motivates others. Some wish to leave a legacy of protecting the water quality of lakes and streams. Did you know 7 Lakes Alliance is an accredited land trust certified by the national Land Trust Alliance, a third-party independent organization that audits and ensures the financial and operational integrity of land trusts? 7 Lakes can help landowners explore options that meet their goals for the permanent conservation of their land through a wide range of conservation tools based on their individual properties, goals and circumstances. Staples of the landowner’s conservation toolbox include:
Conservation easement, a flexible option in which a landowner retains ownership of the property while granting public benefits such as protecting wildlife habitat, ensuring traditional uses, maintaining scenic views and/or providing recreational trail access. The easement holder (the land trust) becomes responsible for ensuring those benefits in perpetuity. Landowners whose easements provide qualifying public benefits though a qualified entity, such as a nonprofit land trust, may secure tax benefits if the easement is donated.
Donation of land, a tool that ensures land donated to a qualified entity, such as a nonprofit land trust, will be forever conserved, and ensuring the donee’s responsibility to forever protect the land. Donation of land to a qualified charitable entity for public benefit is considered a charitable contribution and may result in a tax benefit.
Sale of land to a qualified conservation organization, such as a nonprofit land trust. A bargain sale – sale for less than fair market value – is considered a charitable contribution and may result in a tax benefit for the difference.
Estate planning and many other tools are available to help meet landowners’ individual circumstances and needs. Consider a confidential conversation with 7 Lakes to learn more, including information on conservation options, sources of independent expert advice, and a network of land trusts and landowners with experience to help guide you. We will get you on the path to peace of mind about the permanent protection of your land. 7 Lakes uses and recommends Conservation Options: A Guide For Maine Landowners, published by our conservation partner Maine Coast Heritage Trust. It is a guide filled with helpful information for landowners. NOTE: This article appeared in the fall edition of The Conservationist, 7 Lakes' newsletter, which is posted at this link. Printed copies are available in our offices, 137 Main St. in the Belgrade Lakes village. To receive future editions by mail, email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org.