How to Protect Your Land
For many landowners, their property is much more than real estate. It may hold memories of where they grew up or raised their children. It may be where they spent many happy hours with family and friends fishing, hunting, picnicking, hiking, and watching wildlife. It may have provided the food that sustained them and from which they earned their living.
Every landowner has their own reasons for wanting to conserve their land, but common motivations are: they want to conserve their land for the enjoyment of generations of family members to come, for wildlife that depends on the natural habitats, or to benefit their community.
At the Land Conservancy of West Michigan we can provide landowners with options, advice, and guidance on legal and administrative processes to help them achieve their conservation goals. This can be done during a landowner’s lifetime, or as part of estate planning or through a will.
With decades of experience working with landowners and communities to preserve natural and rural land, we can assist landowners conserve land through a number of different preservation tools, including the following:
For landowners who want to keep their land in private ownership but who want to ensure that the property is never fully developed, a conservation easement may be the best tool to accomplish this goal. It is a voluntary and legally-binding agreement between a landowner and the Land Conservancy that permanently preserves the natural, scenic, or rural qualities of the land by restricting certain development and uses of the land. With a conservation easement, the landowner can continue to own, use, and live on the land, pass it along to heirs, or sell the property to a new owner. The Land Conservancy will work with the new landowners to ensure that the conservation restrictions in the easement are honored.
There are state and federal tax benefits available for qualified donors of conservation easements. One of the most significant benefits comes from Michigan Public Act 446, which exempts conservation easement land from the “pop-up tax”.
For more information on potential tax benefits and the costs to create a conservation easement, please see our Conservation Easement Booklet (pdf).
For some families, there is nothing more satisfying than knowing that their natural land will be forever protected as a nature preserve or as a public natural area. Some landowners choose to do this as a way to memorialize a loved one. The donation of land to the Conservancy has the added benefit of relieving the landowner of property taxes and other land ownership costs.
A landowner who is considering donating their land to the Land Conservancy, either during their lifetime or through their will, should contact the Land Conservancy to discuss the suitability of the property as a preserve or park and how it might fit in with the Land Conservancy’s protection priorities.
For more information about donating land to the Land Conservancy, please see our Land Donation Brochure (pdf).
Also known as a reserved life estate, this allows a landowner to donate their property to the Land Conservancy while they continue to live on or use the property as private property, usually until their death. Please contact the Land Conservancy to learn about the estate and income tax benefits that may result from such a donation.
Also known as a below-fair market value sale or a partial donation, in this case a landowner sells their land to the Land Conservancy at a “bargain” price. The landowner would receive some funds from the sale and may be able to take a charitable tax deduction for the portion of the property’s value that is donated. As with a regular land donation, the Land Conservancy would then fully own and manage the property and the landowner would be relieved of property taxes and costs.
For more information about the conservation options available to landowners, contact our land protection staff at 616-451-9476 or by email.
This information is presented for general use only. The Land Conservancy of West Michigan does not offer legal or financial consultation and you should consult your own advisors before entering into any conservation transaction.