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Phone: (251) 433-2372
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Land Conservation

The Alabama Forest Resources Center works with forest landowners to help them protect their working forests and wildlife habitat from development pressures. Private landowners own a majority of undeveloped land in the Southeastern United States. However, private landowners find themselves under increasing financial pressure from taxes, urban sprawl, and unplanned development. Landowners are searching for ways to protect their working forests and wildlife habitat for themselves and for their heirs, while continuing to use the land for their individual benefit.

AFRC works with private landowners using conservation easements as a financial and estate planning tool at an increasing rate. Conservation easements allow landowners to preserve their property in a natural state or continue traditional land use practices. In each case, there may be potential tax savings involved by protecting your land.

Conservation Easement Fact Sheet

A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and the easement holder, either a nonprofit organization or a governmental body. The purpose of an easement is to prevent activities such as commercial development or residential community development on private land. The easement is in effect for a specific time or in perpetuity. The easement holder enforces the terms of the agreement and how the owner treats the property’s specific features. An easement can be used to protect scenic, natural, open-space, educational, recreational, or agricultural features, and to ensure the preservation of historic characteristics.

Although an easement gives the holder part interest in a property, the owner retains title and can use, sell, or bequeath the property at will. Owners usually donate easements in perpetuity to keep the agreement in effect no matter who owns the property.

Landowners who grant an easement in perpetuity as a charitable gift, usually reap some federal income and estate tax advantages. Property tax benefits are state and locally determined and may vary. Contact an attorney knowledgeable about land-use law for specific tax implications. From the public perspective, easements protect scenic, natural, open-space, educational, recreational, or agricultural features, and ensure the preservation of historic characteristics. This can convey very important public benefits even though public access may or may not be granted. Easements protect clean water, clean air and wildlife and forest resources. Public agencies cannot afford to buy and maintain every property that merits protection. Conservation easements, however, make it possible for private landowners to maintain and protect significant properties.

The Alabama Forest Resources Center was established in 1986, we began accepting donations of conservation easements and fee lands to protect working forests and wildlife habitat in 2002.

AFRC Conservation Goals:

  • To work in partnership with landowners to foster a pro-active conservation easement program which recognizes the need for good land stewardship that is compatible with sustainable, conservation, economic and consumptive use values.
  • To identify and better understand the natural ecosystems and cultural resources of Alabama.
  • To monitor regional growth management issues and work with local and state Governments to ensure that Alabama’s conservation values are an integral part of the planning process.
  • To establish public informational and educational programs that demonstrate and promote the importance of the natural and cultural legacy of Alabama.

The Sehoy and Enon easements are significant for Alabama because of their size and the quality and uniqueness of the habitat … and also because these donations should encourage other landowners to consider conservation easements as a tool for protecting their own land. Click here to view the press release. Learn more about The Red-cockaded Woodpecker On Enon and Sehoy Plantations (PDF)

Tax Law Consideration of Conservation Easments

Download the presentation (2MB PDF) I gave at the 2009 LTA rally entitled Conservation Easement Overview (2MB PDF) and learn about the ALFRC's approach to conservation easements and the associated tax implications.

Alabama River Easement Corridor

river easements

Books by Stephen Small

This is the original landowner’s introduction to basic tax issues and other considerations, now updated to include the important new tax incentives for donations of conservation easements. If you are thinking about a conservation easement for your land, you need to pay attention to the new rules and act now!!

This important book includes:

  • An introduction to conservation easements
  • New and updated information on important new income
    tax incentives
  • An introduction to the income and estate tax benefits available for donations of conservation easements and the estate and gift tax rules
  • Gifts by will and gifts of remainder interests
  • Appraisal issues and information about potential donee organizations
  • What you need to know to get started
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Book 2Preserving Family Lands: Book II covers the fundamental conservation easement tax and legal rules but it also has a specific focus: planning for land when more than one generation is involved, particularly if there are a number of family members in that "next" generation. Reaching agreement among family members, planning for passing land from one generation to the next, the use of partnerships, trusts, and limited liability companies, and a few user-friendly estate planning techniques are some of the things covered in Book II.
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Book 3 Preserving Family Lands: Book III covers some of the same material as Book I but has more in-depth tax and planning analysis. Book III has a lot of material about additional estate tax incentives for easement donors under tax code Section 2031(c). Book III also includes a seven-chapter checklist for a conservation easement project. I think reading the checklist is essential for anyone involved in a conservation easement.
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