Land conservation projects are, at their core, sophisticated real estate transactions. This workshop is specifically intended for beginners and will acquaint participants with basic real estate concepts, legal elements of real estate transactions, and outline the acquisition process from property identification through title searches and related due diligence to closing. Emphasis will be placed on basic legal terminology, possible pitfalls, and practical advice. The topics will include: types of ownership and how interests in property can be held by different people; title searches, title insurance, and problems; liens and encumbrances; surveys and legal descriptions; due diligence and liability; letters of intent, purchase contracts, options, and rights of first refusal; basic information on deeds, conservation easements and other documents; and closing and recording.
This session will take a hard look at one state’s journey to curtail syndicated conservation easement tax abuse and reform its tax incentive program using certification and pre-approval of holder and easement processes, and how these solutions can be used in the fight against current syndication abuse. Presenters will shed light on lessons learned (and learning) for the good of the greater conservation community during the years’ long journey including: the impact of syndicated conservation transactions on your organization, from conservation community confusion and donor distrust to orphaned or neglected easements and fee land divestiture; how to repair harm to landowners, how to rebuild trust in land trusts and conservation tools, and how to manage neglected easements and landscapes along the way.
This session will focus on current and emerging water rights issues in land and water conservation, including the challenges posed by hydrological variability (drought) and climate change. Presenters will walk participants through a complex ranch conservation opportunity involving multiple water rights, numerous/competing conservation values, and adjacent private and federal land and water right owners on an over-appropriated stream. Finally, we will discuss the stewardship of water and land conservation consistent with conservation values, hydrological variability and climate change. The presenters are all practicing water and conservation attorneys with experience in the Rocky Mountain, Intermountain and Pacific Coast states.
The workshop will explore why and how conservation at the landscape scale is needed to make progress on the three primary themes of this year's Rally--inclusion, climate and water. It will focus on practical tools and examples from three ongoing landscape scale projects and how land trusts can participate in larger scale conservation to meet the important 21st Century conservation challenges identified by Rally organizers. This will be done by presenting case studies of three successful large-scale projects--the Bayou Greenway Project in Houston for inclusion of diverse people in on-the-ground conservation in a large metro area; the Central Appalachian project of TNC to illustrate how to address climate change mitigation and adaptation through creation of a climate-based forest economy in what has been a coal mining region; and the longstanding work of the Natural Lands Trust to discuss the multi-faceted protection of the Delaware River watershed. Each panelist will emphasize practical tools for accomplishing conservation goals and how non-profit organizations, including land trusts, can play a vital role. We will then engage the audience in a structured discussion around tools, techniques, risks and opportunities to apply the lessons learned from these landscapes to other places. The moderator will draw final lessons from the workshop to be communicated to the Land Trust Alliance and to the Network for Landscape Conservation. These lessons will become part of the NLC's ongoing effort to work with land trusts to encourage cooperative conservation across large landscapes.
For years, many land trusts have believed, in good faith, that their easement “template” provisions were sound, protected the conservation values, and satisfied the IRS deduction rules. However, recent IRS actions and court decisions have denied deductions based on particular easement provisions that in many cases, based on years of drafting and learning, were considered to met all the relevant requirements for a tax deduction. Steve and Karin will go over drafting suggestions in the face of a number of very important court decisions, including since last Rally, that have had a major impact on “traditional” easement clauses, including reserved building sites, amendment provisions, and the “proceeds” rules. We will also discuss how to approach easement drafting and amendments in light of anticipated but unknown impacts on land from climate change.
Join this session for a discussion on common title problems, how they can be identified and how they can be resolved. We will start with an overview of common title problems that may create impediments to the long-term conservation of real property. We will also discuss the importance of title insurance as a means of insuring against those risksas well as the purpose and mechanics of quiet title litigation. We'll close the workshop with an interactive discussion of three to four real-life scenarios in which land trusts have been involved in title litigation.
Note: This workshop is a longer, 2.5-hour session. Many landowners expect to obtain a federal charitable tax deduction as part of their gifts of money or property to land trusts. However, there are many tricky rules that landowners must follow to prove that they properly made the gift and deserve a tax deduction for it. The IRS has fully denied deductions because of improperly completed forms, the absence of required documentation, or the failure of an appraisal to comply with all the rules in the Tax Code and the Treasury Regulations. These denials are increasing due to abusive syndications and the IRS’s resulting suspicion of conservation transactions. While donors are legally responsible for substantiating donations, land trusts may assist donors to understand the forms and requirements, so long as the land trust does not provide legal advice. Land Trust Standards and Practices include best practices for ensuring that the gifts accepted by land trusts are not part of the abusive tax shelter schemes being promoted across the country. There are several standards and practices that apply specifically to gift substantiation and appraisals, and those will be discussed in detail along with the legal requirements.
Momentum is building around the idea of 30 x 30, the goal of protecting 30% of the Earth by 2030. But what qualifies as protected land and water? The session will explore the origins of 30 x 30 as an interim goal in the call for setting aside half of the planet for nature. The panelists, representing a broad geographic diversity in the US, will make the case that rewilding and biodiversity preservation must be at the heart of these initiatives. The session will address the welcome trend of increased attention to climate issues, but point to the need to address the extinction crisis as well. The overall goal is a spirited conversation on how the American land trust movement can advance progress on 30 x 30’s scientific underpinnings through bold action, pressing for both landscape-scale land protection and adequate safeguards to preserve native flora, fauna, and the planet.
The Fundación Tierra Austral (FTA) is the most prominent land trust in Chile and one of the prominent private land conservation organizations functioning outside the US. FTA is pioneering the use of Chile's breakthrough law, the Derecho Real de Conservación (DRC), which is the Chilean equivalent of the conservation easement, adapted to the Napoleonic legal system. After years of hard work and planning, FTA is now protecting land throughout the country using DRC agreements. It is also building a respected international Board of Directors, creating financial incentives for private conservation, exploring forest carbon projects and industrial mitigation offsets, and increasing awareness about the critical importance of private lands conservation among a diverse range of stakeholders. This presentation by FTA staff and board members will offer an informative and inspiring glimpse at the world of land trusts outside the US.
Unauthorized division of property is a growing concern for many land trusts as easements mature and properties are passed down or sold to successor landowners. This session will address some of the less-obvious conservation easement threats that can arise from property subdivision and provide some real-life examples of why it is so essential for land trusts to include comprehensive provisions in conservation easements to prevent divisions, maintain open lines of communication with landowners, and have processes in place to monitor land ownership and property transfers.
The Healthy Watersheds Consortium, a partnership of the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, was designed to accelerate the protection of watershed lands across the U.S. among like-minded partners from all levels of government, organizations and industry to support individual watershed protection projects through grants, using leveraged funding from government and non-government sources together. Within the Great Lakes Region, the program has increased the capacity for on-the-ground watershed protection through four unique watershed partnerships and innovative land protection and funding mechanisms. Great Lakes Region watershed protection implementers will share stories about their individual and collective efforts to protect healthy watersheds. Stories may feature: compelling strategic watershed protection visions with metrics, partnerships with water utilities and local governments, use of land use planning to augment on-the-ground land protection, innovative funding mechanisms and revolving protection fund development, watershed financing partnerships, and exploration of other tools and programs. Fitting within the “water” Rally theme for 2021, the session presenters will describe how their work supports millions of water users, prevents nonpoint source pollution, has been enhanced through diverse partnerships, and how this could be replicated in other regions.