Common Questions

Where do you work in Alabama?

The Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust works in Jef­fer­son, Shelby, St. Clair, Blount, Walker, Bibb, Tuscaloosa, and Chilton Counties.

Would you con­sider land pro­tec­tion oppor­tu­ni­ties out­side of that area?

We focus our con­ser­va­tion work in those coun­ties. How­ever, the Board of Direc­tors agrees that if we were asked to help with an impor­tant con­ser­va­tion project out­side of our work area, we would cer­tainly con­sider it.

How do you decide what lands you want to protect?

The Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust’s Board of Direc­tors set five major con­ser­va­tion pri­or­i­ties that we use when con­sid­er­ing new lands for pro­tec­tion. A prop­erty that ranked high in each of these cat­e­gories and within our seven-county work area would be con­sid­ered a high con­ser­va­tion priority:

  1. Water Qual­ity Pro­tec­tion (areas with high risk of erosion)
  2. Bio­log­i­cal Con­ser­va­tion (sites that con­tain rare species & bio­log­i­cal communities)
  3. Recre­ational Poten­tial (open spaces within or near pop­u­la­tion centers)
  4. Impor­tant Con­nec­tors (link­ages between exist­ing con­ser­va­tion areas)
  5. Com­mu­nity Con­ser­va­tion Pri­or­i­ties (archae­o­log­i­cal / pale­on­to­log­i­cal sites, his­tor­i­cal sites, bicy­cle / pedes­trian routes, view­sheds, etc.)
What is a land trust?

A land trust is a non­profit orga­ni­za­tion that works to pro­tect land through dona­tion or pur­chase. Land trusts work with will­ing landown­ers who wish to donate or sell their land or con­ser­va­tion ease­ments on their land for con­ser­va­tion pur­poses. Accord­ing to the Land Trust Alliance, there are over 1,500 land trusts in the nation.

What is a con­ser­va­tion easement?

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 you to con­tinue to own and use your land and to sell it or pass it on to heirs. When you donate a con­ser­va­tion ease­ment to a land trust, you give up some of the rights asso­ci­ated with the land. For exam­ple, you might give up the right to build addi­tional struc­tures, while retain­ing the right to grow crops. Future own­ers also will be bound by the easement’s terms. The land trust is respon­si­ble for mak­ing sure the easement’s terms are followed.

Con­ser­va­tion ease­ments offer great flexibility:

An ease­ment on prop­erty con­tain­ing rare wildlife habi­tat might pro­hibit any devel­op­ment, for exam­ple, while one on a farm might allow con­tin­ued farm­ing and the build­ing of addi­tional agri­cul­tural structures.

An ease­ment may apply to just a por­tion of the prop­erty, and need not require pub­lic access.

A landowner some­times sells a con­ser­va­tion ease­ment, but usu­ally ease­ments are donated. If the dona­tion ben­e­fits the pub­lic by per­ma­nently pro­tect­ing impor­tant con­ser­va­tion resources and meets other fed­eral tax code require­ments it can qual­ify as a tax-deductible char­i­ta­ble dona­tion. The amount of the dona­tion is the dif­fer­ence between the land’s value with the ease­ment and its value with­out the ease­ment. Plac­ing an ease­ment on your prop­erty may or may not result in prop­erty tax sav­ings. Please con­sult a tax advi­sor if you are con­sid­er­ing an ease­ment donation.

A con­ser­va­tion ease­ment can be essen­tial for pass­ing land on to the next gen­er­a­tion. By remov­ing the land’s devel­op­ment poten­tial, the ease­ment low­ers its mar­ket value, which in turn low­ers estate tax. Whether the ease­ment is donated dur­ing life or by will, it can make a crit­i­cal dif­fer­ence in the heirs’ abil­ity to keep the land intact.

For more infor­ma­tion on con­ser­va­tion ease­ments, please visit the Land Trust Alliance’s web­site.