OCC-Related Press Releases

Philander Chase Conservancy and Owl Creek Conservancy are Approved Local Sponsors of LAEPP

December 2016

The Ohio Department of Agriculture administers a Local Agricultural Easement Purchase Program, which allows landowners to voluntarily sell agricultural easements on their farms to the State of Ohio. The Philander Chase Conservancy and Owl Creek Conservancy, land trusts operating in Knox County, are approved Local Sponsors of the program and have received funding for the next application round. Both land trusts have been certified to accept applications from landowners from January 18 - April 18, 2017.

Landowners interested in learning more are encouraged to call either Lisa Schott with Philander Chase Conservancy at 740-427-5902 or Richard Stallard with Owl Creek Conservancy at 740-392-6952 to arrange a time to meet.

Agricultural easements are voluntary legal agreements permanently restricting non-agricultural development on farmland. The land remains on the tax rolls and under private ownership and management. Once the property is covered by an agricultural easement, the owners may undertake any agricultural activity permitted under Ohio law. Landowners may sell their land or will it to heirs or gift it to others. The easement requires that the farm remain permanently in agricultural production.

To qualify for the competitive program, farms must be more than 40 acres, actively in use for farming, and enrolled in the Current Agricultural Use Valuation program. Additionally, the farm must show good stewardship of the land, local government must support the application, and the farm must not be too close to development.

Landowners may use the proceeds of the easement in any way they wish.

Funding to purchase agricultural easements from willing sellers through a competitive process is derived from the Clean Ohio Conservation Fund, which was approved by voters in all 88 counties in 2008. To date the program has preserved 380 family farms, collectively preserving more than 63,000 acres for agricultural production in 55 counties.

For more information go to http://www.agri.ohio.gov/divs/FarmLand/

Conservation Easements: An Option for Landowners

February 2016

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

February 2016

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:

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.

OCC Wins Environmental Sustainability Award

January 2016

The Owl Creek Conservancy is honored to have received the Environmental Sustainability Award for 2015. The award, given for introducing or promoting sustainable practices into the operations of an organization, was sponsored by Kenyon College and presented at the Knox County Chamber of Commerce annual awards dinner January 8, 2016. The award was accompanied by a commendation from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted; a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition from Congressman Bob Gibbs, and a certificate of recognition from Governor John Kasich.

President Ray Heithaus Accepts Sustainability Award
OCC President Ray Heithaus, back row, second from left, accepts the Environmental Sustainability Award. Photo by Bostic Imagery.

Thanking John and Donna Horn

September 2015

Horn Newspaper Notice

Thanking Bruce and Kathy Lanker

February 2015

Lanker Newspaper Notice

Thanking Irene Price Healea

September 2014

Irene Healea Newspaper Notice

Thanking Janet L. Kohr

June 2014

Janet Kohr Newspaper Notice

Thanking Daniel W. Galbraith

March 2014

Daniel Galbraith Newspaper Notice

OCC Conserves 890 Acres of Farmland and Other Open Spaces in Knox County in 2013

March 2014

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

February 2012

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 www.owlcreekconservancy.org.


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