Trust Our Land: A golden opportunity for landowners
Eagle Valley Land Trust
The last 18 months have been a wild ride for Eagle County’s real estate market by any measure. But what does that mean for conservation? A lot actually.
Despite an uncertain economy and swelling land values, conservation has surged. Why? Partly because landowners are able to take advantage of record high property values by working with land trusts to protect the conservation values on their land.
Conservation easements, legally binding — and completely voluntary — agreements between a land trust and a landowner, permanently limit development on a property in exchange for generous tax benefits provided by Colorado and the federal government. The value of a conservation easement, and therefore the resulting tax benefits, is determined by a qualified appraiser.
The value of the Colorado state tax credits is determined at 75% of the first $100,000 in conservation easement value, and 50% of the remaining value, up to a cap of $9,850,000 (the maximum owners can receive is $5 million in credits, which can only be distributed in increments of up to $1.5 million annually). Those who don’t need tax credits can sell the credits for cash through a tax credit broker, like Tax Credit Connection, Inc.
The generous tax credits aren’t the only reason that Colorado landowners are pursuing conservation easements at such high rates. Conservation easements are a sophisticated tool that can support landowners in realizing their own goals for their property.
Whether their goals are to pass land to children in an ecologically intact and community-sensitive way, support active agricultural operations with a capital infusion, or leave a legacy of conservation, conservation easements can support a wide variety of landowner needs and visions.
According to Keep It Colorado, a nonprofit, statewide coalition of conservation partners, approximately 60% of land in Colorado is privately owned. Over the past 40 years, land trusts and partners across the state have conserved more than 3.2 million acres of working lands, wildlife habitat, and open spaces.
With continued population growth across the state and growing interest in outdoor recreation of all types, Coloradans continue to prioritize the conservation of the places they love. In fact, 94% of the state’s residents agree that even with state budget problems, we should find money to protect the state’s land, water, and wildlife. Further, 69% of Coloradans consider themselves conservationists.
With popularity like that, it’s no wonder that land trusts like the Eagle Valley Land Trust and partners like Keep It Colorado are helping to advance new legislation to grow and improve our state’s conservation easement program. The Conservation Easement Enhancement and Rural Stimulus Act (HB21-1233) is making its way through our state legislature in an effort to align land and water conservation efforts, create a more equitable tax credit incentive, and increase the program’s efficiency.
If passed, the act would adjust the tax credit formula under the Conservation Easement Tax Credit Program to allow landowners who are donating an easement to receive up to 90% of the value of their easement in tax credits.
“We are aiming to ensure that the tax credit program works more effectively and efficiently for landowners across the state — ultimately leading to more protection and conservation of Colorado’s land, water and wildlife,” said Melissa Daruna, executive director of Keep It Colorado, which advocates for forward-thinking conservation policy on behalf of its coalition members, including Eagle Valley Land Trust.
Are you interested in learning more about conservation options for your land? Please don’t hesitate to contact the Eagle Valley Land Trust, your local land trust, for a consultation at 970-748-7654 or by emailing Jessica at Jfoulis@evlt.org.
Jessica Foulis is the Eagle Valley Land Trust’s executive director. To learn more about the Eagle Valley Land Trust’s conservation work in our community, visit EVLT.org or follow EVLT on Facebook and Instagram.