Conservation easements are a good tool for telling landowners what they can’t do, especially when it comes to the built environment: no houses, no roads, etc. However, when it comes to addressing what landowners should do (or even must do!) in regards to vegetation management, the limits of an easement becomes tested. Many land trust funders and easement holders are becoming more interested in the “performance” of private lands to meet certain societal goals such as climate change, organic farming or invasive species. In the eyes of many, it’s no longer enough just to keep land from being developed through a negative covenant. When we demand certain management regimes on private land through an easement, it stretches the legal and practical relationship between easement holder and private landowner. This session will explore the range of options for addressing the ephemeral nature of land/vegetation management in a perpetual document. Specifically it will address: the full spectrum of options for addressing how land is managed from the easement holder being completely at arms-length to the holder having affirmative rights to manage the property; the pros and cons of using a land management plan as the third leg of the stool in a conservation easement transaction (easement, baseline, management plan); and the long term implications for the land trust industry when we increase the expectations for the land trust role in directing or doing specific land management.
Correctly completing Form 8283 can make or break a conservation easement deduction. The IRS has fully denied deductions because of improperly completed forms or the lack of required documentation. A contemporaneous written acknowledgement from the donee is not required to be attached to the Form 8283, but is required to be received by the donor for the donation to be deductible. Knowing what transaction expenses are deductible is also critical, as many are unaware that reimbursing a landowner for such expenses could render the donation a "bargain sale." While donors are legally responsible for substantiating donations, land trusts may assist donors to understand the forms, so long as they don't provide legal advice. The session will also discuss how a donee organization should review a donor's appraisal, what to do if the claimed value is so high as to "shock the conscience," and recent changes to Land Trust Standards and Practices and recent court cases related to Form 8283 and gift letters.