Interested in protecting land?
What is a Conservation Easement?
A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement made between a landowner and a qualified conservation organization such as the Montezuma Land Conservancy.
By permanently restricting certain developmental land uses, an easement protects land with conservation values that are significant to the public such as agricultural lands, significant wildlife and plant habitat, cultural resources, and scenic open space.
Conservation easements can be flexible and tailored to the individual property and the landowner’s wishes for the land. An easement can protect any or all of conservation values that the landowner chooses: farm and ranch land, water rights, wildlife or plant habitat, and scenic views, to name a few.
In return, the landowner gets the satisfaction of having protected the land for future generations—and can also receive financial compensation or important tax benefits as well.
Six Quick Facts About Conservation Easements
Conserving your land is always a big decision and may not be the right tool for all situations.
Yet there is one thing that all landowners who have done so have in common: they love their land, they know it’s part of their legacy, and they have a commitment to the future of our community and the landscape we all share.
Here are a few key points to consider if you or someone you know is interested in land conservation.
You retain your private property rights and can sell, lease, or pass your land on to your family.
Farm, ranch, or wildlife conservation easements are voluntary and do not require public access.
In Colorado, you can now receive up to 90% of the easement value in state tax credits. The other 10% of the easement value can be used to offset your federal income tax liability.
Tailored to You
Each conservation easement is unique to the land it conserves and to your vision for your property.
Farming, ranching, hunting, recreational uses, and a limited number of house sites and/or property divisions may be permitted.
Estate Planning Benefit
Conserving your land can help with your estate planning, reduce your estate taxes, and allow for a transition to the next generation.
Financial Benefits to Conservation
Colorado Conservation Tax Benefit
Colorado is one of a handful of states that has an innovative tax program that provides incentives for conservation.
When a landowner chooses to protect their property through a conservation easement with a qualified land trust, like MLC, they may qualify to receive transferable state income tax credits. The program allows landowners to utilize state tax credits to offset their own tax liabilities and the sale of tax credits to other qualifying taxpayers with Colorado income tax liabilities.
Currently, Colorado’s conservation easement tax credit program allows landowners to receive credits for up to 90% of the conservation easement value.
Landowners can then receive the remaining portion of the easement value as a federal tax deduction. While the federal deduction can not be sold like the state credits, it can be used to offset federal income tax liabilities for up to a period of 20-years.
Please note: MLC cannot provide legal, tax, or accounting services. This information is intended as a guide only and landowners are encouraged to seek out professional advice.
Other Ways to Take Action
In addition to conservation easements, there are numerous ways that landowners can take action to promote conservation and benefit the community.
Here are a few examples. Landowners who are interested in any of these options are encouraged to reach out to MLC for more information.
Habitat Restoration Projects
In addition to hosting sustainable land management workshops, Montezuma Land Conservancy also works with landowners and partner organizations to organize restoration projects on private lands.
Traditional Harvest Projects
Interested landowners may join the Traditional Harvest Project which provides planned, voluntary access on their lands to Ute Mountain Ute Tribal members for harvesting of culturally-relevant plants which are in dwindling supply on the reservation.
Participation includes a plant habitat assessment and management plans.
Donations of Real Estate
A donation of property can be considered a tax-deductible gift and may be an opportunity to further support the mission of conservation, land access, or community-centered programs.
Landowners considering a gift of real estate are encouraged to reach out to MLC to discuss their visions for the property and ways in which it may support the mission of the conservancy now, or in the future.
Mapping a better future
With the help of graduate fellow from Western Colorado University, MLC has been using GIS mapping tools to analyze the impact of climate change in Montezuma, Dolores, and San Miguel Counties.
As our climate changes, this information will help us prioritize land protection projects with the highest potential ecological benefits as well as help landowners understand ways to increase climate resiliency on their lands through best management practices.
Tools available now for landowners and other interested people to explore include Colorado's Conservation Data Explorer (CODEX) and The Nature Conservancy's Resilient and Connected Networks tool.