Ownership of land is a "bundle of rights." These include timber, mineral, hunting or fishing and water rights. An owner can
separate and sell or give away each of the rights. Also, each of the rights can be separated and sold or given away as an
easement. For example, a utility easement can be sold or given to a gas company for a gas line through a property. Such a
utility easement would appear on the deed to the property and would remain with the property permanently even though the owner
might subsequently sell the land.
A conservation easement (CE), as the name implies, is a legal agreement used to extinguish development rights for the specific
purpose of conserving and preserving land. Land might be conserved, for example, to assure continuation of agricultural
activities, wildlife habitat or private open space. Typically, easements are written to reflect the current owner's personal
wishes for his or her property.
Each CE is recorded in the permanent public record just as deeds of ownership or utility easements are recorded. The CE
simply sets limitations on future uses of the property in exchange for financial compensation and/or tax benefits. A CE would
not convert the land to public use or permit public access; the land would remain entirely private. The land can be sold, leased
and willed subsequently and can be used as defined in the easement.
The Ohio Revised Code recognizes CEs, allows conservation groups to hold them and specifies how they are to be handled. To
qualify for a federal tax deduction, a CE must be given in perpetuity to a recognized conservation organization. A qualified
appraiser can evaluate a CE just as an appraiser could determine the market value of land for sale as real estate. Values of CEs
vary, but 25-35% of the fair market value of the property is a general rule.
Recently enacted permanent federal tax incentives for individual landowners provide that for Qualified Conservation
Contributions, which include CEs but not fee gifts of land, the federal income tax charitable deduction for the value of the CE
gift, as determined by a Qualified Appraisal, can be deducted in the year of the CE grant in an amount equal to 50% of the
grantor/donor's adjusted gross income for that year. Any deductible amount not used in the year of the grant can be carried
forward for as many as 15 successive years with the deduction in each of those years being subject to the same AGI limitation
measured by the donor's AGI for the year in question. Similar provisions apply to corporate landowners.
In Knox County, the Owl Creek Conservancy is a private, fully qualified 501 c (3) (IRS) non-profit land trust that can develop
and hold conservation easements. Presently, the Conservancy holds twenty-seven CEs covering more than 3100 acres. The first two
of the Conservancy's CEs are along the Kokosing Gap Trail west of the Brown Family Environmental Center at Kenyon College.
Twenty-five of the completed CEs, totaling 2913 acres and protecting both working farms and natural areas, are in Knox County.
The two remaining CEs include a 91-acre working forest (that can be timbered forever) in Monroe Township in Richland County and a
130-acre farm in that is being developed by the Muskingum Valley Park District and the Muskingum farming community as an
agricultural educational facility.
Five of the Conservancy's CEs in Knox County were acquired through partial donations by the landowners and partial purchase by
grants of public funds from the Ohio Public Works Commission, ODNR (Division of Wildlife) or ODA (Office of Farmland Preservation).
Seven of the CEs were acquired through partial donation by the landowners and through partial purchase by private funds donated
to the Conservancy. The remaining fifteen CEs were the generous donations of the property owners.
The Conservancy's completed CEs attest to the scope of land-protecting agreements and to the magnitude of the Conservancy's
holdings. The listing above, however, does not demonstrate the uniqueness of each land-protecting agreement and the
Conservancy's ability to tailor an agreement for each property and landowner.
In addition to the Conservancy, a private land trust, the Knox County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Board of
County Commissioners are governmental entities that are also qualified to hold CEs. For more information about land use options
and conservation easements, please visit the Conservancy's web site at www.owlcreekconservancy.org or the web site of the
national organization of land trusts, the Land Trust Alliance, at www.lta.org.
Federal Tax Incentive For Land Conservation Renewed
Mount Vernon, Ohio. Private landowners—especially family farmers —are beneficiaries of a newly-passed permanent federal tax
incentive for conserving land. The incentive involves voluntary land-protecting agreements, also known as conservation
easements, to protect working farms from unwanted development. The incentive makes it more economically feasible for farmers
and other landowners to keep their land in agricultural production. Additionally, the incentive can make it easier for families
to leave their land to the next generation.
Most of the natural and working landscape of Knox County is privately owned land. Thus, maintaining the rural character of
our community hinges on the decisions of individuals. Many land-use decisions are made in the marketplace, and such decisions
often transform the landscape to more intensive uses. But other voluntary decisions by landowners can help to conserve our
community's natural and agricultural resources. The newly-passed federal tax incentive for conservation provides an important
tool for farmers and landowners to conserve their land and receive important tax benefits.
The incentive, which applies to a landowner’s federal income tax, will:
- Raise the deduction a donor can take for donating a voluntary land-protecting agreement from 30% of their income in any year to 50%;
- Allow qualified farmers to deduct up to 100% of their income; and
- Increase the number of years for a donor to take deductions from 6 to 16 years.
According to Richard Stallard, Vice President for Land Protection of the Owl Creek Conservancy, “Landowners are inspired to
donate conservation easements for many reasons. For example, love of their land and the rural character of Knox County, a
feeling of being connected to a home place, and desire to leave a legacy for future generations. Such inspirations are at the
heart of our work to protect permanently valuable natural resources in Knox County. The federal income tax deduction that
comes with a conservation easement may encourage donations that might otherwise not occur.”
The Owl Creek Conservancy and the Philander Chase Corporation are private land trusts operating in Knox County. The
Philander Chase Corporation operates in and around Gambier. It holds 38 land-protecting agreements, covering 4,598 acres in
College, Pleasant, Harrison, Monroe, Howard, Butler and Clay Townships and owns 168 acres. The Owl Creek Conservancy operates
throughout Knox and surrounding counties. It owns no land, but it holds 27 land-protecting agreements covering 2,920 acres in
Knox County, 130 in Muskingum County, and 91 in Richland County. Self-perpetuating boards of trustees manage both the Owl
Creek Conservancy and the Philander Chase Corporation. The Owl Creek Conservancy also has memberships open to all who want to
support the effort to conserve the land and waters of the Knox County area.
Lisa Schott, managing director of the Philander Chase Corporation, urges those who wish to preserve the rural, agricultural
heritage of Knox County to contact one of the land trusts to learn more about conserving their land. “Ohio loses 40,000 acres
a year to development, at least five acres an hour, twenty-four hours a day. The window of opportunity to keep a healthy
balance of development and conserved land is closing fast. Once we lose our natural resources to development, they are lost
forever. We want to work with Knox County landowners who value the tremendous benefits of conserved lands. We are excited that
the permanent federal tax incentive gives us a powerful tool.”
Doug Givens, Advisor to the Owl Creek Conservancy said, “For a wide range of reasons a number of farmers and landowners have
already conserved and preserved land in the County. The result is cleaner air and water and, more importantly for Knox County,
conservation of working farms. Over the long term, conservation easements will help sustain one of Knox County’s largest
industries and will help maintain a rural heritage we often take for granted.”
For more information about conserving your land and preserving your heritage, please visit owlcreekconservancy.org or
telephone 740-392-6952 for a return call.
Thanking John and Donna Horn
Thanking Bruce and Kathy Lanker
Thanking Irene Price Healea
Thanking Janet L. Kohr
Thanking Daniel W. Galbraith
OCC Conserves 890 Acres of Farmland and Other Open Spaces in Knox County in 2013
The year 2013 was a banner year for landowners protecting land for agriculture, river and groundwater protection, and for enhancing open spaces and
biological diversity in Knox County. Eight conservation easements were recorded in partnership with the Owl Creek Conservancy.
The Owl Creek Conservancy is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit land trust. Its mission is conserving land in Knox and surrounding counties. The
Conservancy has met this mission since its founding in 2000 primarily through land-protecting conservation easements.
Conservation easements are voluntary legal agreements through which landowners can set a plan for the future use of their land. The land remains
on the tax rolls under private ownership and management, and the land can be sold or passed to heirs. However, the land-protecting agreement remains
on the land permanently.
Ray Heithaus, President of the Conservancy, said, "Our all-volunteer organization conserved 890 acres of farmland and other open spaces in Knox
County in 2013, our most fruitful year to date. The Conservancy is a local part of a nationwide effort by more than 1700 private land trusts to
conserve land. Currently, the Conservancy has land-protecting agreements covering 2427 acres. Of these, 1838 acres are tillable ground, 524 acres
are or will be woodland, 293 acres are 100-year FEMA-designated floodplain, and 547 acres are within the aquifer recharge area for the water supply of
Mount Vernon, which serves the City, the Village of Gambier and parts of Clinton Township. We have also conserved three miles of habitats along and
in the Kokosing and the North Branch of the Kokosing, both State Scenic Rivers."
Landowners may want to work with the Conservancy to conserve their land for many reasons, including in memory of loved ones. Daniel W. Galbraith
donated a conservation easement on a 210-acre farm in 2013 in memory of his mother. Irene Healea and Janet Kohr donated conservation easements to
entwine the memories of their husbands in the lands they had known and worked together. Irene Healea and her husband, J. Warren Healea, operated
Warwick Farms, Inc., a 310-acre property in Morris and Monroe Townships. Janet Kohr and her husband, Robert D. McKenzie, operated Homewood Farm, a
169-acre property in Brown Township. Janet Kohr said, "I want my land to remain forever a farm and open space for future generations who will not
have the luxury of imagining that Nature's bounty is capable of unlimited exploitation."
To learn more about the Conservancy and conservation options available to local landowners, please contact the Owl Creek Conservancy at 740-392-6952
or P.O. Box 291, Mount Vernon, OH 43050 or visit www.owlcreekconservancy.org.
Montgomerys Conserve Farmland
Richard and Nancy Montgomery and their son, Jeff Montgomery, have conserved 653 acres of productive farmland in Milford Township, where
they have been involved in dairying and productive row cropping since 1968. The Montgomerys worked with the Owl Creek Conservancy to
develop land-protecting conservation easements for their four farms to assure the permanent use of their land for agriculture.
The Montgomerys granted conservation easements to the Conservancy on more than a square mile of productive farm fields in the past
year. Richard Montgomery said, "Our kids and grandkids cannot have the life we have had, if our productive agricultural land is used
for houses." Nancy Montgomery added, "For us, it is simple. We want to keep our land in farming so that future generations can have
the opportunities we have enjoyed. Owl Creek helped us do that."
The conservation easements will preserve Montgomerys' agricultural land not only as they desire, but also in accord with clearly
defined federal, state or local governmental policies. With the easement, the Montgomerys maintain their property rights. Through
the conservation easements the Montgomerys' prime soils will remain in agricultural use permanently for raising livestock and/or for
producing food crops or timber. Jeff Montgomery said, "I am lucky to have grown up on a farm and to have my own farm. Like Mom and
Dad, I want my land to be a legacy for farming."
The Owl Creek Conservancy is a private land trust operating in Knox and surrounding counties. The Conservancy is part of a
nationwide effort of more than 1700 private land trusts to conserve land. Through December 2010, more than 47 million acres have been
conserved throughout the United States by such efforts. To learn more about the Conservancy and conservation options available to
local landowners, please contact the Owl Creek Conservancy at 740-392-6952 or P.O. Box 291, Mount Vernon, OH 43050 or visit
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