Step 1. Preliminary Discussion: Your first step should be to contact us through our website. You want to be sure that you feel confident and comfortable with our mission and our compatibility with your goals. We will ask you for some basic information, including location, size, current land use, your future goals, interesting species, and other relevant issues.
Step 2. Site Visit: After initial discussions, we will make an on-the-ground visit and conduct an initial evaluation to assess if NALC can help in conserving your property. Typically, a couple of members of our Land Acquisition Committee will visit with you, tour the property, take photos and ask you questions about the property itself and your conservation goals. This visit will be scheduled at your convenience.
Step 3. Board Approval: As a non-profit organization, we are governed by a Board of Directors, who set the strategic direction of our mission and focus. The Board must also approve each conservation easement project. Following the site visit, board members will present your project to the rest of the board for their concurrence with proceeding further.
Step 4. Agreement in Principle: The Land Acquisition Committee will develop an Agreement in Principle that outlines the process and obligations of both you as the landowner and NALC.
Step 5. Appraisal: Once the Agreement in Principle is drafted and accepted by both parties, a qualified independent appraiser will assess the value of the easement. A qualified appraisal is one that has been prepared by an appraiser who follows Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice. The appraiser will assess the value of your property with and without a conservation easement. The difference between these two values is considered the value of the easement. We will be happy to refer you to qualified appraisers. You will be responsible for acquiring and paying for the appraisal.
Step 6. Conservation Easement Drafting: Once the landowner has provided basic ideas for future property management, the landowner and NALC work together to amend the draft conservation easement so that it is specific to the property. Because a conservation easement is essentially a deed restriction, the easement will remain attached to the title of your property in perpetuity, even if you choose to sell your land. Therefore, it is essential that we work with you to create a strong document that provides adequate protection to the conservation values of your land, while at the same time, enough flexibility that you and your heirs can continue to live and work on your land.
Step 7. Baseline Documentation Report: Part of the easement process is documenting the condition and ecological variables present on the property. This report is called a Baseline Documentation Report (BDR). It contains the property’s historic and present land uses, including agriculture, man-made features, ecological features, wildlife use and habitats, soils, hydrology, geology, and scenic values. The most important part of the BDR is the documentation of the conservation values of the land, which are what the conservation easement protects and what qualifies conservation easement donations to be tax deductible by the IRS. The BDR is required. The Norman Area Land Conservancy will collect the data and write this report.
Step 8. One-time Contribution: One of NALC’s responsibilities in accepting an easement is conducting monitoring visits each year per IRS regulation. As part of the commitment to the perpetual monitoring of the property, NALC typically asks for a one-time contribution with each easement. This is essentially NALC’s and the landowner’s insurance policy to guarantee the long-term enforcement of the conservation easement.
Step 9. Executing Easement: Final approval for all easements rests with our Board of Directors. Once approval is granted, the easement is signed, notarized and recorded at the courthouse in the appropriate county.
Step 10. IRS Form: Donors who wish to take a charitable deduction for a gift of a conservation easement with a value in excess of $5,000 must report the value of such a gift on IRS Form 8283 (Noncash Charitable Contributions) and submit this form with your federal income tax return. NALC must sign this form. Donors who claim a deduction of more than $500,000 must attach a complete copy of a qualified appraisal to the tax return for the year in which the deduction is first claimed (see Appraisals section, above). While NALC does not take a position on the value of your gift, we will not knowingly participate in a project where we have significant concerns about the tax deduction.
Step 11. Monitoring: Once a year, a member of NALC will contact you to schedule a monitoring visit to your conserved land. Board members will spend 2-4 hours on the property to check that the easement is being maintained and the provisions being followed. Following the monitoring visit, board members will create a report of the property condition (a copy may be provided to you at your request) that will be kept with our records.
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Specific benefits to cooperating property owners may include some or all of the following:
- An income tax benefit as a charitable donation, based on any difference between the value of the land before and after creation of the easement.
- A lowered value for estate and gift taxes.
- Personal fulfillment from preserving family land in its historic form.
- Monetary benefit. In certain instances, federal funds may be available for purchase of conservation easements. In such cases, the NALC likely would ask the landowner to donate part of the value of the easement.
For clarification of terms used on this page, you can see our glossary.