Conserving Your Land

What is a land trust?

Land trusts are private, nonprofit organizations dedicated to conserving and protecting natural resources. They identify and protect the places that make our communities special – farms, urban greenways, historic landscapes, stream corridors. A growing number of local land trusts in North Carolina use voluntary methods to help land owners achieve long-term conservation and financial goals.

What is a conservation easement?

Conservation Easements are one of many conservation tools available to landowners wanting to protect their land resources for the future. They are voluntary, legal agreements between a landowner and a nonprofit conservation organization or government agency. Under the agreement, the landowner gives up certain rights, such as subdivision and development of the land, while retaining ownership of the property. There are many benefits: donating a permanent conservation easement may significantly reduce the amount of federal and state income taxes owed; the value of the land’s development potential restricted by the conservation easement qualifies as a charitable donation; in many cases, estate taxes are also reduced. To qualify as a charitable contribution for federal and state tax purposes, an easement must be perpetual, must be made to a qualified Grantee (generally a nonprofit organization or a public agency), and it must meet one or more of the following conservation purposes:

  • preservation of land for public outdoor recreation or education;
  • protection of relatively natural habitats of fish, wildlife, or plants;
  • preservation of open space including farm and forest land;
  • preservation of historically important land or buildings.

What conservation options exist other than easements?

Outright Land Donations
Land which is donated as a gift to a land trust and can result in substantial income tax deduction and credits.

Bargain Sale of Land
For the seller, the difference between fair market price and bargain sale price is treated as a charitable donation and can reduce capital gains taxes payable on the sale.

Mutual Covenants
An agreement by a group of landowners which restricts land use; not permanent.

Remainder Interest Trust
Land is donated to a land trust, but owners can continue to live there until death.

Bequests and Living Trusts
Allows a landowner to own and manage the property during his/her lifetime, while assuring permanent protection for the future. A living trust achieves the same goal, but avoids the probate process and may reduce the donor’s taxable estate.

For more information about conservation planning please contact us:


Or visit the Open Space Protection Collaborative website and access these pages for additional details regarding the various options and tools available to landowners:

Open Space: Advisor Tools
Open Space: Tax Incentives


Land for Tomorrow is a growing partnership of North Carolina organizations and citizens committed to building awareness of the importance of land conservation and historic preservation to North Carolina’s future and advocating for expanding funding to meet that need.


  • Land Trust Services

    Foothills Conservancy’s protection efforts serve and benefit the public for this and future generations. We have helped add thousands of acres to state parks, wildlife gamelands, national forests, and local parks, trails and greenways.
  • Conservation Options

    There are several options available to landowners interested in conserving their land for the future.
  • Conservation Tax Benefits

    North Carolina has an incentive program to assist landowners who want to protect their land and the quality of life it offers to the community.