PAC’s focus is to protect the natural resources which make up our valuable waterways, forests, mountains, farmland, greenspace, plants and wildlife.
Conservation is accomplished through:
(1) conservation easement agreements,
(2) outright donations of land to be protected,
(3) partnerships with state conservation agencies,
(4) partnerships with other conservation organizations, &
(5) purchase of lands to be protected.
Click here for a pdf on Land Conservation Options with PAC.
As of 1/1/14, the State of North Carolina no longer offers tax credits to landowners for protecting their land with a conservation easement.
As of December 2015, Congress has made the enhanced Federal Income Tax benefit for Conservation Easements PERMANENT! That means that the Federal Tax deduction for donating a Conservation Easement, that you may be eligible for, is 50% of your adjusted gross income (up from 30%) for up to 16 years (up from 6 years)!
For information on Voluntary Conservation Easements (Agreements), click on the link below to download the latest in depth publication, Voluntary Conservation Agreements: An Introduction for North Carolina Land Owners, or contact the Pacolet Area Conservancy for a printed version.
Click here to download the 3 MB pdf: Voluntary Conservation Agreements: An Introduction for North Carolina Land Owners
Click here to download a flyer with information about possible tax benefits.
What You Might Want to Know about Conservation Easement/Agreements:
Questions You Might Have Before Beginning to Consider Conserving Your Property:
How will I know if my property qualifies for a conservation easement/agreement?
PAC will help determine conservation “values.” PAC is an organization specifically qualified to assess the conservation “values” of your property. At your invitation, PAC’s Land Protection Specialist will do a site visit to see if your land may be appropriate for a conservation easement/agreement.
What does it mean to donate a conservation easement/agreement? Will I still own my land?
When you donate a conservation easement to a qualifying non-profit land trust, such as PAC, you are generally giving up certain development rights on the specified property. You still own the property and have all rights of ownership except for certain restrictions specified in the conservation easement/agreement.
Can I ever build on my land after I donate a conservation easement/agreement?
If you would like to, you may reserve the right to build on your land in the future; however, future development must be specified in the conservation easement/agreement.
What if I just want to add on to my house or barn?
When drafting the conservation easement/agreement, PAC will ask you to think of any type of renovation that might need to be done. You will be asked to estimate the maximum square footage you would ever anticipate for any type of building or renovations.
What are some typical reserved rights that easement holders retain?
PAC encourages landowners to think of everything they might intend for their property in the future. While some landowners do not wish to add anything in the future, some landowners decide to reserve such things as:
Building sites for future houses, driveways, barns, out buildings, or other structures, fencing, pond sites, view areas, pasture, trails, gardens or landscaping, and other things which conform to the landowners’ intentions for his or her property.
There are some “standard” allowances that PAC recommends putting in your conservation easement/agreement, such as the ability to add wells, septic, electrical and “green power” sources. PAC can walk you through the process of deciding what reserved rights fit your intentions for the property.
Please note: If you are a landowner planning to apply for a federal tax benefit for placing your land under conservation easement/agreement:
The more rights you retain on your property, the less tax benefit you can potentially enjoy. The tax benefit is awarded for the creation of natural, agricultural, historical, scientific, and educational resource areas only. The IRS requires that the conservation easement/agreement be held by a qualified agency, such as PAC, and is defined by a qualified appraiser.
How do I find out if I qualify for a tax benefit for conserving my property?
You must work with your financial advisor to see if your particular tax position will benefit. Generally, the tax benefit amounts to the difference between your property’s appraised “highest and best” use and its appraised value after placing the conservation easement/agreement on the land.
Please note: You will need to have an appraisal done by a certified conservation appraiser in order to apply for a federal and/or North Carolina tax benefit. PAC can supply you with a list of regional certified appraisers.
Do I have to decide right away if I want to work with PAC on a conservation easement/agreement?
You do not have to decide right away. You are under no obligation. The organization does not charge for its services and will help a landowner through the process, even if the landowner decides they do not wish to complete the conservation easement/agreement process.
Does a conservation easement mean that the public will be allowed on my property?
Only those properties specifically intended for public use, such as parks, will have public access.
Will I be able to cut dead and diseased trees on my property if I have an easement?
Most landowners wish to be able to remove dead, dying and diseased trees as they occur over time. The ability to do this should be stated in your conservation easement/agreement, along with a plan for careful removal of such trees, and for notice to PAC.
Why should I have to let PAC know if I need to remove dead trees (or make any other changes to my land after the conservation easement/agreement has been placed on my property)?
PAC is responsible for making sure that the terms you outlined in your conservation easement/agreement remain in tact. Such things as tree removal need to be noted in your easement file so that when the property is monitored, there are no questions about what should or should not have been done to the land.
What is the point of donating a conservation easement/agreement to PAC?
A conservation easement/agreement is the only legal and binding way to ensure that the natural nature of your property will be protected, specifically the way you intend, forever.
What is the process for deciding if I want to go forward with an easement/agreement? When do I have to commit to the idea?
There is a system of steps to creating the conservation easement/agreement on your property. You may choose to follow through any or all of these steps, but you are never obligated to complete the conservation easement/agreement until you sign the final document. If you go through many of the steps, but decide that it is just not what you want to do at this time, it’s alright. We just appreciate the chance to work with you and support you in protecting your beautiful piece of land, for now and for the future.
Steps to completing a conservation easement/agreement with PAC:
- Meet with PAC to see if you like the organization’s philosophy and work ethic and to find out what’s involved in creating a conservation easement/agreement. When you meet with PAC, it is helpful for you to bring a plat or survey of your property
- Tell PAC what your general intentions are for the property: do you want to leave it the way it is, reserve some development rights, etc. (You do not have to decide the specifics at this time)
- PAC’s Land Protection Specialist (LPS) will have to visit your property to document its conservation values. If conservation values are found on the property, the property is eligible for conservation. The LPS will ultimately prepare a “Baseline Documentation” of the property which will accompany the final conservation easement/agreement. This documentation will give a baseline for future monitoring.
- PAC will provide a list of “Basic Steps to Completing a Conservation Easement/Agreement,” outlining responsibilities of both you and PAC
- Once you decide to place a conservation easement/agreement on your land, PAC recommends that you line up a certified conservation appraiser.
- If you have a mortgage on your land, you will need to get a subordination agreement from your bank. PAC has appropriate forms.
- Take time to work with PAC’s easement-drafter and your attorney to define and refine the terms of your conservation easement/agreement to reflect your wishes for your property.
- PAC will provide you with a DRAFT conservation easement/agreement to review and alter as you wish. Generally, the conservation easement/agreement document goes back and forth several times for revisions.
- PAC will calculate a stewardship donation request using an objective formula. This is a tax-deductible amount requested from you for the organization’s work, monitoring, and legal defense of the protected properties in perpetuity. Please note: It will be PAC’s duty to protect and defend the terms of your conservation easement/agreement forever.
- PAC title search—It is helpful if you have a previous title search which you can supply PAC, so that the organization can do an update.
- Closing. Because the conservation easement/agreement is a legal document which will be attached to your deed, the process requires a closing. PAC will record the final document at the register of deeds office, and you will receive a copy of the recorded conservation easement/agreement, as well as a copy of the unrecorded baseline documentation report, to keep for your reference.
Why and when is my land monitored?
It is PAC’s responsibility to monitor all of our protected properties, at least, once a year to be sure that the terms of the conservation easement/agreement are being upheld, and to be sure that there is nothing happening to the property that goes against the terms outlined in the conservation easement/agreement. PAC always gives notice, in writing and via phone call, to let the landowner know when we plan to visit the property. PAC also follows up with a letter letting you know what we found. You are also welcome to join us during the monitoring process.