What is a land trust?

A land trust is a nonprofit organization that works to conserve land. Land trusts are typically community based and well attuned to local interests and needs.

Land trusts work with the community and local landowners to protect natural habitats or lands offering agricultural, recreational, scenic or other conservation values by accepting land donations, negotiating voluntary conservation agreements (easements) on land, purchasing land and stewarding such land or easements in perpetuity.

The Trust for Virgin Islands Lands works with landowners to identify the best arrangement to meet the wishes and needs of landowners.

What is a conservation easement?

A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust whereby a landowner agrees to give up some of the rights associated with all or part of the land in order to protect its conservation values. Each conservation easement is written specifically to address the needs and desires of the owner, the natural characteristics of the land, and the conservation objectives of the protecting organization. Donating an easement can result in reduced income tax and estate tax.

An easement allows the landowner to continue to own and use their land, as well as maintain the ability to sell it or pass it on to heirs. Restrictions defined in the recorded conservation easement run with the title to the property forever, preserving the owner’s intentions and ensuring perpetual protection for the designated conservation values. The land trust is responsible for making sure the easement’s terms are followed.

Why donate your land?

Donating conservation land to a land trust is one of the most effective ways to ensure that land is protected and managed in a way that conserves its most important values for future generations. Landowners donate land for many reasons, including leaving a legacy for future generations, gaining tax benefits, and avoidance of estate taxes that leave heirs with little choice but to sell the land.

Fee-simple ownership of land by the land trust provides the greatest level of control over the use and condition of a property, yet it comes with its own set of challenges.

What is a bargain sale?

A bargain sale is another option for landowners looking to balance the protection of their land with their financial requirements. In a bargain sale, land is sold to a land trust for less than the fair market value, which can make the transaction more affordable for a land trust and its supporters, but also offers benefits to the seller/donor. For the landowner, this type of sale provides cash, avoids some capital gains tax, and provides a charitable income tax deduction based on the difference between the land’s fair market value and its sale price.

Since any transfer of property is a legal process, an attorney handles the land trust's part in transactions. Donors must rely on their own attorneys, appraisers and tax specialists in order to insure that they receive personal and objective representation during negotiations and appropriate benefit from the transfer.

Download more detailed Land Donation FAQs HERE.

For more information, please contact the Trust for Virgin Islands Lands. 
Inquiries will be treated as confidential and without further obligation.