Conservation Glossary

Appraisal: An estimate of the fair market value of property prepared by a qualified, independent professional appraiser.

Assessment: The valuation of property in order to apportion or assess for taxation purposes, often in relation to other similar property also taxed.

Baseline Documentation: A record of the condition of the property at the time of acquisition of the conservation easement. Baseline documentation identifies existing physical conditions, natural and human-made, at the time of acquisition. The Internal Revenue Service requires baseline documentation for tax-deductible donations of conservation easements, and they are useful in documenting changes over time.

Bargain Sales: The sale of land (fee title) or a conservation easement (partial interest) to a qualified conservation organization, such as a non-profit land trust or municipality, at less than fair market value.  The difference between the fair market value and sale price may qualify as a charitable gift.

Bequest:A willed gift of personal property (automobiles, furniture), as opposed to real property, such as land, which is a devise.

Charitable Contribution:An outright gift or contribution, with charitable intent, whose value is deductible for federal and/or state income tax purposes and which may give rise to estate/inheritance tax benefits.

Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT): A CRT is an irrevocable trust designed to convert highly appreciated assets into a lifetime income stream without generating estate and capital gains taxes. When the trust ends, the remaining assets pass to the qualified charity or charities specified in the trust.

Conservation Easement: A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between grantor (landowner) and grantee (qualified conservation organization) that ensures the permanent protection of a property’s natural characteristics, while allowing landowners to continue to live on, utilize, and enjoy their land.  Each conservation easement is tailored to fit the needs of individual landowners and their property.  No two easements are alike.  Conservation easements do not require public access to the protected land, though they do provide grantees with certain rights such as the right to monitor the easement area and enforce the restrictions.  A landowner may choose to protect an entire parcel or parts of it, thereby retaining certain rights and uses in the future.

Conservation Subdivision: A subdivision that both reduces density (and therefore the costs of development) and results in the protection of land with conservation value, typically with a conservation easement.

Deed: The legal document by which title to, or an interest in, real estate is conveyed from one (the “grantor”) to another (the “grantee”).

Deed Restrictions: Terms that are placed in the deed to the property that restrict certain uses of a real property interest by subsequent owners.

Due Diligence: An investigation or audit of a potential investment. Due diligence serves to confirm all material facts in regards to a transaction. Offers to purchase an asset are usually dependent on the results of due diligence analysis.

Federal Estate Tax: A tax on the transfer of property upon the death of an owner.

Federal Gift Tax: A tax on the transfer of property during life (for less than full value in return).

Fee Simple Interest: Absolute ownership of property. Fee simple interest is the greatest interest that one can have in real property, being unqualified, of indefinite duration, freely transferable and inheritable.

Land Trust Alliance (LTA): The national organization of land trusts that serves as a federal lobbying organization on behalf of land trusts, arranges for local, regional, and national training, and serves as a general umbrella organization for land trusts such as the North Shore Land Alliance. The North Shore Land Alliance is a member of the Land Trust Alliance.

Management Agreement: An agreement entered into by the landowner and the land trust concerning how the property’s natural resources are to be managed in the future.

Mortgage Subordination: When a mortgage holder subordinates a mortgage that precedes conservation easement in time the mortgage holder agrees to allow the easement to be considered as preceding the mortgage in the chain of title, so that in the event of a foreclosure of the mortgage, the ease­ment is unaffected.

Option: An enforceable agreement by which one party has the legal right to buy certain property at a certain time at a specified price or on certain conditions, to the exclusion of other buyers.

Purchase and Sale Agreement: A contract between a buyer and seller for the purchase of real estate, including all of the terms and conditions of the transaction.

Purchase of Development Rights: The purchase (generally in the form of a conservation easement) of certain real property interests to subdivide, build, and develop a property by a qualified conservation organization (government entity or private nonprofit conservation organization) to protect a property, or a portion thereof in perpetuity.  The landowner continues to own the property after the development rights are sold, and retains the right to sell the restricted land or pass it on to future generations.

Reserved Life Estate: A gift of a residence with a reserved life estate to a charitable organization allows the donor to continue living in the residence during their lifetime. Upon the donor’s passing, the organization may sell the real estate and use the proceeds to carry out its charitable mission.

Qualified Appraiser: An individual that conducts an appraisal for the purposes of qualifying for a charitable gift.  The appraiser much be state certified, can not be compensated based on the value of the land, and can not be involved in or a related party to the transaction.

Qualified Conservation Organization: An entity that can hold conservation easements or receive real property interests for the purposes of qualifying for a charitable gift.  There are two types of entities that are considered qualifying conservation organizations: 1) government entities, including villages, hamlets, cities, counties, states, or the United States, and 2) conservation or historic preservation organizations that qualify for tax exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Restrictive Covenants: Used in many subdivisions, these regulate the use of property for the benefit of neighbors. They are usually enforceable only by the landowners involved and their heirs and successors-in-title.

Testamentary Gift: Gift by will.

Transfer of Development Rights: The transfer of certain real property interests to subdivide, build, and develop a property from one property in a sending district to another property or properties in a receiving district.