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Frequently Asked Questions
We have compiled a list of questions that we are asked often, listed by category. Click on the category below and the list of questions will expand for you. If you have any other questions that are not answered below, please send us an email or give us a call at 541.482.3069.
A land conservancy or land trust is a nonprofit organization that actively works to conserve land by undertaking or assisting in land or conservation easement acquisition. Land trusts represent a vibrant, national movement of citizen-led conservation that has experienced great success. With over 1,700 organizations nationwide protecting over 37 million acres, land trusts are critical for ensuring access to pure water, clean air, safe food, and places to experience the healing properties of nature.
The Southern Oregon Land Conservancy was organized as a charitable organization under federal tax law in 1978. We are directly involved in conserving land for its natural, recreational, scenic, and/or agricultural values. We can purchase land for permanent protection, but we mostly use one of several other methods: accept donations of land or the funds to purchase land, accept a bequest, or accept the donation of a conservation easement, which permanently limits future uses that can take place on the land. In some instances, we may also purchase conservation easements.
No, we are an independent organization that works with landowners who are interested in protecting natural areas. But we do often work cooperatively with government agencies on shared conservation goals.
In a way, yes, but we have a different focus. The Nature Conservancy is an international organization that protects lands in priority areas based on biodiversity. We work exclusively in Southern Oregon to protect a variety of land types that reflect community values. We are completely separate institutions, though we occasionally collaborate on projects in Southern Oregon.
Not usually. Using a tool called a conservation easement, we work with willing landowners to place certain limitations on the use of the landowner’s property. A conservation easement (also called a conservation agreement) is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values.
Over thirty years! The Southern Oregon Land Conservancy formed in 1978 and was the first regional land trust in Oregon. Since then, we have been responsible for placing permanent protections on over 8,300 acres of important open spaces and working lands in Southern Oregon. For many years, the Land Conservancy was run by a dedicated group of volunteers. In 1991, the first executive director was hired and today we have a staff of five people to carry out our strategic mission.
The Southern Oregon Land Conservancy has had over 30 years of success in land conservation transactions with landowners and communities. Our staff has the expertise to help landowners achieve their conservation vision, and we have the resources to ensure that our efforts are permanent.
Donations of land, conservation easements or money may qualify you for income or gift tax savings. Moreover, because we are a private nonprotift organization, we can be more flexible and creative than public agencies - and can act more quickly - in saving land.
There are numerous benefits that come from conserving land through the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy, including:
There may be income, estate, and property tax benefits for donating your land, donating a conservation easement, or selling the property as a "bargain sale" at below market value. The amount and type of tax benefits depends on a variety of factors, including the legal tool you've used to protect your land, the value of the donation, your income level and the total amount of your estate. You should consult with a financial advisor and/or an attorney to fully understand the tax implications.
Many reports have shown that conserving natural areas in communities around the U.S. attracts jobs, enhances property values, and saves in government costs.
Protected forests have a clear role in cleaning the air of carbon dioxide (CO2), a process called carbon sequestration. Trees and vegetation remove CO2 during photosynthesis and store carbon in leaves, branches, bark, roots and soil. The carbon sink provided by forests, grasslands, croplands and wetlands offsets 12.5% of annual greenhouse gas emissions in the United States .
A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. It allows the landowner to continue to own and use the land and to sell it or pass it on to heirs.
People execute a conservation easement because they love their land and want to protect it from inappropriate uses, while keeping their private ownership of the property. Landowners voluntarily enter into a conservation agreement usually because they want to make sure that the conservation values of their land (wildlife habitat, scenic views, natural areas, working farms and ranches, etc.) don’t change in the future. Additionally, granting an easement to an organization like the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy may yield income and other tax savings.
They are very popular. In the 5 years between 2000 and 2005, the amount of land protected by local and state land trusts using easements doubled to 6.2 million acres. Landowners have found that conservation easements can be flexible tools, and yet provide a permanent guarantee that the land’s important conservation features will remain intact. Conservation easements are used to protect all types of land, including coastlines; farm and ranchland; historical or cultural landscapes; scenic views; streams and rivers; trails; wetlands; wildlife areas; and working forests.
Most easements "run with the land," binding the original owner and all subsequent owners to the easement's restrictions. Only gifts of perpetual easements can qualify for income and estate tax benefits. The easement is recorded at the county or town records office so that all future owners and lenders will learn about the restrictions when they obtain title reports.
The most productive land in the west is privately owned. The western U.S. is growing twice as fast as the rest of the nation and the fastest developing parts are rural, not urban areas. The conversion of land from agriculture to residential, commercial and industrial use is taking place at an even faster rate than population growth. If we don’t invest in conserving private lands now, they will be lost forever.
Why do we need to conserve more land in Oregon, where 50% of the land is publicly owned and managed?
Federally managed lands are primarily in the higher elevations. The private lands are in the valley bottoms, along rivers and streams, where water is plentiful. These are the lands we most often see and use. Natural areas in these areas are quickly disappearing and they may soon be lost forever.
In 1973, Governor Tom McCall made a famous speech to the Oregon Legislature that set off a decade of new environmental protections, including a statewide land use policy and standards for planning and zoning for all cities and counties.
First, contact us to become acquainted with our organization and the services we provide. Explore with us the conservation values present on your land. Let us know what you hope to accomplish and what rights you may want to retain. For example, you may already have one home on your property and want to reserve the right to build another home. Our staff will work with you to determine what the best tool for conserving your land is and how the Land Conservancy can assist you.
A conservation easement restricts uses on the land to protect the significant conservation values of that particular property. Landowners, working together with the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy, can create conservation easements that reflect both the landowner's desires and the need to protect conservation values. Uses that could degrade the unique conservation values present on the land will be restricted, while other uses will be permitted. A conservation easement is written in a collaborative process between the landowner and the Land Conservancy.
The terms of the agreement are binding on ALL future landowners. The agreement runs with the land in perpetuity.
The Southern Oregon Land Conservancy is responsible for enforcing the terms that each easement document spells out. To do this, our conservation staff monitor the property on a regular basis - typically once a year - to ensure that no violations have occurred. We maintain written records of these monitoring visits, which also provide the landowner a chance to keep in touch with the Land Conservancy. In addition, we review management plans and assist the landowner in making management decisions when needed.
By working with the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy, together we can decide the best conservation tool to use to protect your land. You can select from a number of tools, including the outright donation of your property, the donation of a conservation easement that permanently restricts development, the bargain sale of your property, and other variations. You should always have legal advice before embarking on such a decision.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service reports that between 1997 and 2001, 2.2 million acres were lost to development each year. The Land Trust Alliance's National Land Trust Census reports that from 2000 to 2005, local and state land trusts conserved natural areas at a rate of over 1,000,000 acres per year. The Southern Oregon Land Conservancy was formed in part to address this problem – conserving our precious natural lands before they are lost forever.
As a member of the southern Oregon community, you can play a vital role in conserving the best lands of our region for today, tomorrow, and beyond. We could not do with without the ongoing support from volunteers, members, and a supporting community.
We use volunteers on a continuing basis for various needs, including: