Agricultural Conservation Easements
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Photo by Dave Fallesen
Photo by Dave Fallesen
We must act now to preserve our rural lands.
Tools exist to protect our farmland.
Protecting working lands such as farms, ranches, dairies, and orchards from being converted to other uses is an urgent need in Washington County. Preserving these lands requires a variety of approaches and involvement from the entire community. Agricultural conservation easements and farm succession plans are two methods we can use to ensure our local farming communities thrive for years to come.
Tualatin SWCD's Agricultural Conservation Easements:
As a certified conservation organization, Tualatin SWCD is well suited to facilitate the development and upkeep of agricultural conservation easements in Washington County. Our rural conservation specialists work closely with landowners to understand their desires and their unique property in order to craft an individualized easement and to ensure compliance indefinitely.
To learn more and to discuss how an easement could work for you, please contact our Rural Conservation Specialist, Nicole Ruggiero.
What is a conservation easement?
Conservation easements are voluntary legal agreements used to preserve a parcel of land for a specific purpose such as wildlife habitat, historic preservation, or agriculture.
- Easements are property-specific contracts that are tailored to meet the needs and desires of individual landowners.
- The easement is a legal document that accompanies the property deed.
- This document limits the ways the land may be used now and in perpetuity.
- Easements are a partnership between the property owner and the conservation easement holder.
Why place a conservation easement on your property?
An agricultural conservation easement is an effective tool to preserve a property owner’s interests, support new farmers, and safeguard the economic wellbeing of rural communities. By placing an easement on an agricultural property, the owner is helping to preserve rural lifestyles and local agricultural viability. Other reasons farmers choose to place an easement on their land include:
- Protection of essential land uses that are under threat of development or fragmentation.
- The landowner maintains control of the property and its operations.
- Charitable deduction on 100% of income taxes for qualified farmers or ranchers.
- Potential for reduced property, income, and inheritance taxes.
What is the role of a conservation easement holder?
An essential component of conservation easements is the easement holder. The holder is responsible for the continuous management of the easement which includes activities such as:
- Enforcement of the easement terms by reviewing requests for new activities and blocking activities that are inconsistent with the easement terms.
- Routine monitoring of the property.
- Recordkeeping and documentation.
Not-for-profit organizations and public agencies are often well-suited to be easement holders because they have a vested interest in upholding the conservation objectives described in the easement. As a certified conservation agency, Tualatin SWCD can hold agricultural conservation easements.
What types of farms are well suited for a Tualatin SWCD conservation easement?
Creating, implementing, and maintaining a conservation easement requires dedicated time and resources. To best achieve our conservation goals through conservation easements, we prioritize properties that meet the following criteria:
- Large acreage.
- Contains significant natural resources such a healthy soil, waterways, etc.
- Located within concentrated areas of farmland.
- Contains agricultural infrastructure such as irrigation.
What is the process for placing an easement on your property?
- Preliminary site visit and discussion of conservation goals with a Tualatin SWCD conservation specialist .
- Evaluation of property risks, threats, conservation value, and stewardship needs.
- Approval by Tualatin SWCD easement committee and the Board of Directors.
- Drafting of the conservation easement.
- Appraisal and valuation of the easement.
- Documenting baseline property conditions.
- Closing and reporting of the easement. Monitoring and administration of the easement by Tualatin SWCD.
A conservation easement can be one component of a plan that outlines how the property will transfer to new ownership when it's time to retire.
Farm Succession Planning:
Why create a farm succession plan?
Many farmers hope to pass their farms on to the next generation of farmers. Unfortunately, without a plan in place for managing the farm, farmlands may be divided or sold off for financial purposes due to the complicated details of estate transfers.
Creating a succession plan can protect income by minimizing taxes and fees related to estate transfers. It also provides time for experienced generations to mentor younger farmers.
When is the right time to create a succession plan?
It’s never too early to begin the process of planning for a farm transition. Many farmers start the process too late which can limit their options and cause stress.
What does a farm succession plan contain?
A succession plan is a roadmap that lays out the necessary steps to implement a smooth transfer of ownership when its time. Succession plans are unique to each operation and are tailored to meet the needs of and protect the interests of the farmer. A succession plan contains:
- An action plan.
- A timeline.
- The documents required to make the transfer.