Preserving Forested Lands

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1 Preserving Forested Lands Maryland Woodland Stewards October 3, 2014 Megan Benjamin, Western & Central Region Planner

2 Forestlands in Maryland Forests cover 41% of the State 2.6 million acres Ownership 24% public 76% private

3 Why Preserve Forestland? Air Quality Estate Planning Habitat Natural Legacy Quality of Life Recreational opportunities Scenic Rural Landscapes Viability of Forestry Water Quality

4 Stressors to Resource Lands Unprecedented development pressure Employment centers & jobs accessible from remote areas Patterns of development

5 Techniques to Preserve Land Zoning Comprehensive Planning, Water, Sewer, etc. Preferential Tax Assessments TDR (Transfer of Development Rights) PDR (Purchase of Development Rights) Donated Conservation Easements

6 Types of Conservation Easements Donated Conservation Easements MET Local Land Trusts Purchased Conservation Easements County Preservation Programs MD Agricultural Preservation Foundation (MALPF) Rural Legacy Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP) Forest Legacy

7 Established in 1967, accepted first easement donation in 1972 Statewide land trust, affiliated with the Department of Natural Resources and governed by a citizen Board of Trustees To date, MET has protected over 132,000 acres on 1,080 easement properties state-wide One of the largest land trusts in country

8 What is a Conservation Easement? A legal agreement between a landowner and a nonprofit land trust and/or government entity that permanently limits the uses of the land in order to protect specified conservation values.

9 Conservation Values Conservation values: the key values or attributes on the property which are the focus of protection efforts. Examples: Scenic viewshed protection from public roads and waterways Protection of wildlife habitat Protection of water quality Preservation of significant historical and cultural sites Protection of productive agricultural land Protection of forested land Shoreline and riparian protection

10 Property Ownership Property ownership is a collection of individual rights This collection of rights is often compared to a bundle of sticks because individual rights can be removed from the collection just as a stick can be removed from the bundle

11 Characteristics of a Conservation Easement Easements are perpetual (forever!) Voluntary Contain flexible terms Allows landowners to continue to own, use, and manage their property, and sell it or pass it on to their heirs

12 Terms and Provisions of a Typical Conservation Easement Industrial and commercial activities Agriculture Timber Harvest Buffers around water bodies Number of residences Subdivision Public access not required Perpetuity

13 Benefits to landowners Preserve family lands while maintaining their agricultural, forested, historic use of the property Preserved desired land uses into the future Potential tax benefits Property, Income, Estate

14 Tax Incentives for Conservation Easement Donors Federal Income Tax Deduction State Income Tax Credit Property Tax Credit Federal Estate Tax Benefit

15 Conservation Easement Value Determination: Before and After Analysis Before Value $1,000,000 - After Value - $700,000 Value of the CE $300,000

16 Federal Income Tax Deduction Deduction of 30% of AGI income in the year of the donation and for 5 years forward, or until the value of the donation is reached.

17 Federal Income Tax Benefit Calculation of Deduction Easement $300,000 Taxpayers AGI $145,000 x Ann. Deduction limit 30% $43,500 x # of years allowed 6 $261,000

18 Federal Income Tax Benefit Calculation of Tax Savings Federal Bracket 31% State Bracket 5.75% Combined 36.75% Applied to allowed deduction $300,000 Tax Savings $110,250

19 State Income Tax Credit Credit of up to $5,000 per year, for each individual landowner. A further $5,000 credit may be taken for each of the following 15 years, for a maximum total of $80,000 in credit, not to exceed the value of the donation.

20 Federal Estate Tax Benefit Reduction-An easement limits the amount of development that can occur, thus lowering the appraised value of the land. Exclusion-of 40% of the land value up to $500,000 per owner, for certain land that is subject to a donated conservation easement.

21 Property Tax Benefits No County or State property tax on unimproved land for 15 years from the date of donation.

22 Internal Revenue Code 170(h) Conservation Purposes The preservation of land areas for outdoor recreation by, or the education of, the general public The protection of a relatively natural habitat of fish, wildlife, or plants, or similar ecosystem The preservation of open space (including farmland and forest land) where such preservation is-- For the scenic enjoyment of the general public, or Pursuant to a clearly delineated Federal, State, or local governmental conservation policy, and will yield a significant public benefit, or The preservation of an historically important land area or a certified historic structure.

23 Steps to Complete a Conservation Easement Donation Field visit Background research Conservation easement negotiation Appraisal process Lien subordination Presentation of the easement proposal to the land trust board for consideration Baseline conducted If approved - All parties sign the Deed of Conservation Easement Deed of Conservation Easement is submitted to the Maryland Board of Public Works for ratification Deed of Conservation Easement is recorded in County Lands Records Office

24 How is Conservation Easement Donation Value Determined? Based on Qualified Appraisal - by an appraiser holding a state certified general license Applicable Standards Appraise entire contiguous parcel Address enhancement to other nearby lands owned by family or business partners 60 day rule Completed before you file your return Uses comparable sales Complying with USPAP and Treasury Regulations.

25 MET Easements Standard Language Forest Stewardship Plans

26 Costs of Establishing an Easement Appraisal Survey (sometimes) Optional fees Attorney and/or accountant Stewardship donation

27 Questions? Megan Benjamin

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