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A conservation easement is a legal agreement that permanently protects land from various types of development. The easement spells out the correct and incorrect uses for that land based on its owner’s conservation values. Each one is written to be unique, and specific for each plot of land. Donors of conservation easements maintain ownership over their property and subsequent owners will also retain ownership of the area.

Some people worry that a conservation easement may put them at the mercy of the government. What if the government changes their mind? Do they even have a stake in the land now? Don’t worry. A conservation easement does not let the government control how the land is used. In fact, in regards to the government, conservation easements are quite positive. They can be written off as a charitable contribution and any landowner can deduct the value of the easement from their income taxes for a set number of years. However, due to the fact that the land can no longer be developed, a conservation easement can lower the appraisal value of a property.

Below, please find examples taken from the Montana Land Reliance website that outlines the uses for a conservation easement:

The following are general examples of the types of uses that can be allowed by a conservation easement:

  • Continued agricultural and silvicultural use
  • Construction of buildings, fences, water improvements, etc., necessary for agriculture and compatible with conservation objectives
  • Sale, devise, gifting or other method of transferring parcels, subject to terms of the easement
  • Landowner control of access
  • Additional family and employee residences compatible with conservation objectives
  • Wildlife and fisheries protection, restoration and enhancement projects
  • Any and all uses not specifically prohibited

Types of uses that are generally restricted by a conservation easement include:

  • Subdivision for residential or commercial activities
  • Construction of non-agricultural buildings
  • Nonagricultural commercial activities
  • Dumping of non-compostable or toxic waste
  • Surface mining

A conservation easement assigns three "positive rights" to MLR:

  1. The right to preserve and protect the property according to mutually agreed upon terms.
  2. The right (with proper advance notification to the landowner) to enter the property to monitor activities (usually once a year).
  3. The right to "enjoin and restore," which assures that the landowner's desires, as spelled out in the easement, are enforceable.

The terms of the easement do not in any way negate or modify state or federal law. Specifically, a conservation easement cannot prevent condemnation.

In general, a conservation easement is a great weapon for private property owners who want to conserve their land, the homes they grew up in, and the Montana views they have come to know and love. These easements, although they can initially drop the property value because the land cannot be developed, can do so much to keep the value of a property high. An emptier neighborhood, a unique landscape, or even a historical tract can do a lot to raise the value of any home.

Sources: http://www.mtlandreliance.org/easment.htm; http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/environment/article_d3484fa8-1389-11e4-adb0-001a4bcf887a.html

 

 

 

 

 

Land Trusts and How They Can Serve You

by Tim Hart

With the Montana Land Reliance opening up a new office in Bozeman, any Bozeman property owner would do well to understand what a land trust is and how it can be used. Well, a land trust is quite simple actually. A land trust is any non-profit organization that actively works to conserve land. Usually, a land trust assists private owners who want to keep their land undeveloped. They do this by attempting to conserve what the land has to offer the local area, whether it be farmland, a unique form of wildlife, or just beautiful, open space. Land trusts help private land owners navigate the confusing beauracratic world of land regulations and requirements.

As home construction has gone up, as the Bozeman economy has grown by 5% in the last year, and as Gallatin County has taken the lead in the state for economic growth, conserving the beautiful and agriculturally significant parts of Bozeman becomes more and more important.

A land trust can be used by private property owners to protect themselves, and their land, from irresponsible development. The Montana Land Reliance, for example, is a statewide organization that has conserved 275,000 acres in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. It has also conserved 35,000 acres just in the Gallatin Valley alone. The Gallatin Valley Land Trust, another local land trust, has helped conserve 67 square miles in the valley, again, by teaming with private land owners. Both land trusts hope the growth in Bozeman will not force local, long time farmers to move away from the area.

How are land trusts able to save this land? Land trusts use a legal agreement called a conservation easement. What is a conservation easement? Well lets find out in the following article!

 

Please read the next article on Conservation Easements as they are the method that Land Trusts use to help conserve your land. Find it here http://www.athomeinbozeman.com/blog/What-is-a-conservation-easement-and-how-do-Land-Trusts-use-them-to-conserve-private-property Plus, they are tax deductable! If you would like any more information on either of these Land Trusts, feel free to visit their websites at:

www.mtlandreliance.org

www.gvlt.org

Bozeman Education Taxes to Dip Slightly

by Tim Hart

New construction, continued growth in Bozeman and a larger tax base have allowed the City of Bozeman to lower property tax rates, but still spend more money on education. The Department of Revenue reported that the elementary district has grown by 2.74% while the high school district grew by 2.97%. These numbers reflect the positive growth in Bozeman over the last couple of years, as both construction and real estate seem to have fully recovered from recession. With a larger tax base, Bozemanites can expect to see lower property taxes, yet the schools should be able to hire up to 12 more teachers or counselors for this coming fall semester. The education budget has asked for 70.4 million to spend this year, which is up 1.8% from previous years. As more and more people move to Bozeman looking to raise families in the right schools, Bozeman schools have continued to shine. They have shined so much so that they continue to attract more families, bringing in more money to improve schools, which again attracts more families. Hopefully, this positive trend continues, and Bozeman can help foster the next generation of smarter, more creative leaders.

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