The Guadalupe River is one of the most biologically diverse rivers in the USA.
The Guadalupe-Blanco River Trust serves a 15-County range from Kerrville to the coast along the Guadalupe River Watershed. We have a passion for helping farmers, ranchers, and nature lovers protect their land for present and future generations. Conserving land in the watershed helps protect wildlife and vegetation in one of the most diverse rivers in the country. While our efforts are throughout the watershed, we focus on projects that will protect the health and quality of the River and its tributaries, including riparian corridors, wetlands, working farms and ranches, aquifer recharge, and coastal habitats. As a local land trust, GBRT works with willing landowners to establish a perpetual conservation easement.
What is a Land Trust?
A nonprofit organization that works to protect natural areas by negotiating voluntary agreements with private property owners and monitoring, stewarding and upholding those agreements in perpetuity.
What is a Conservation Easement?
A voluntary, legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust. Land remains in private ownership, allowing the landowner to continue doing what they always have. The land remains managed in its current natural condition, undeveloped, thus protecting the land's conservation values. A conservation easement does not restrict landowners from selling or passing along their land. Unless agreed upon, it does not allow public access, only access for periodic monitoring by the land trust to ensure that the conservation values in the easement are upheld. The landowner does give up some rights to their land that would threaten the conservation value.
Click here to learn more from the Texas Land Trust Council.
Conservation agreements a very flexible. All land is different and all landowner's needs and desires are different. We work to create an agreement that is beneficial to all parties. The terms of the agreement are tailored to meet GBRT's conservation values and the landowner's needs through a discussion and negotiation process. For example, landowners may choose to retain the right to build on the land in specific locations, the right to specific agricultural processes, and may choose not to conserve their entire land at one time.
The value of a conservation easement is the difference in fair market value of the entire property before and after being encumbered by a conservation easement. This requires a qualified appraisal to identify the highest and best use of the property, and, based on the terms of the easement, how much those encumbrances affect the value of the property.
Donated conservation easements may qualify as a charitable contribution under IRS regulations, which provides federal tax benefits similar to those of other charitable contributions. Working lands may be able to deduct the full value of the conservation easement from their federal income tax up to a 15 year period. Landowners with less than 50% of income coming from the property may be able to deduct up to 50% of that value. A conservation easement can also possibly decrease property taxes and estate taxes. GBRT cannot give legal or tax advice. Please consult your legal or tax professional for more information.
In some cases and locations, a conservation easement may be purchased from the landowner rather than donated. Funding is sometimes available for specific habitat or land use protection but is not guaranteed. GBRT will work to assist landowners in obtaining this funding. In many of these cases, a "bargain sale" conservation easements is more fitting. Bargain sales purchase a portion of the easement value, while the remainder can be considered a charitable contribution.
It is important to know you and your family's goals for your land. These agreements are forever and are a very big decision. We recommend you find a match with the land trust that shares your goals and you are most comfortable with. We also recommend you seek legal and financial guidance before entering an agreement.
If you are considering protecting your land, the best first step is to contact GBRT staff to ask about options available to you.
There are many resources available to landowners. One of the best for Texas is the Texas Land Trust Council. Their Conservation Easement Guidebook provides a step-by-step process for landowners. Click below to download a copy.