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Selling or Donating Your Land for Conservation

Your land is a private asset, but it probably provides many public benefits as well. If you no longer need or want to own your land, you could ensure that the things you love about it are protected forever by transferring ownership to a conservation entity.

Land with conservation values that benefit the public—such as wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, or scenic qualities—may be donated or sold in its entirety (“fee simple”) to a land trust, a municipality, or a state or federal conservation agency.

It’s important to match up your land’s characteristics with your goals as well as the goals of land trust, town, or government agency. Consider questions like, do you want your land to be a wildlife sanctuary or open for hunting? Forever wild or managed for forestry? Limited hiking trails or a fully accessible park? Whether Kestrel is the recipient or not, we can help you find the best fit for your land and your goals.

The Financial Benefits of Donating Land

Donating land to a qualified conservation organization is a powerful way to protect a place you love. It is also a major financial decision that may offer significant tax benefits.

Charitable donations of conservation land—either at full value or through a “bargain sale”—currently enjoy federal income tax benefits that can be spread over a number of years to help landowners realize the full value of their donation.

Massachusetts landowners have an additional option to consider with the Conservation Land Tax Credit Program. Land protected in perpetuity can qualify for a refundable state income tax credit of half the appraised value, up to $50,000. This state tax credit is in addition to any federal tax deductions the donation may qualify for. It applies to both land and conservation restriction donations, as well as donations of a life estate, or a bargain sale of land.

This tax credit provides an important incentive for landowners who are willing to protect their land. Landowners who have taken advantage of the tax credit say it was very helpful in covering some of the costs of conserving their land, making it more feasible than in the past. The CLTC program operates on a first-come, first-served basis, and annual funding for the program is capped at $2 million. For more information on the tax credit, download this summary sheet or visit the Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

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