How to Donate a Conservation Easement
Protecting land through a conservation easement with the Oconee River Land Trust begins when a landowner contacts ORLT to ask about a possible CE donation. An ORLT conservation professional visits the property with the landowner to view the land’s conservation features, learn about the landowner’s goals and intended future uses, and provide more information about the benefits of partnering with ORLT to protect the land. At this time, the ORLT conservation professional will explain the CE process and the cost involved.
After the site visit, the ORLT board of directors grants initial approval and ORLT send an approval letter to the landowner that summarizes the proposed CE’s conservation goals and permitted future uses, and how to proceed next.
When the landowner is ready to proceed, they provide the project fee, survey, and a title report to ORLT. An ORLT conservation professional then schedules a detailed site visit to gather information for a baseline documentation report (BDR), a detailed written assessment of existing conservation values, environmental conditions and land uses of the property. ORLT simultaneously begins writing the CE, a legal contract that explains the rights and obligations of the landowner and ORLT in protecting and managing the property. Drafts of the BDR and CE are sent to the landowner for review by them and their legal and financial advisors.
If landowner is seeking a charitable deduction, the landowner has the property appraised by qualified appraiser at this time. If the property has a security deed, the landowner obtains mortgage subordination from the lender as well.
Once the BDR and CE are complete, the ORLT board approves the final CE, the landowner and board chair sign the documents and the CE is recorded in the county where the land is located. At this time, the landowner makes a one-time stewardship contribution to support the cost of annual visits by ORLT conservation professionals to assess the evolving environmental conditions of the property.
Landowners donate a project fee to support the cost of preparing a CE and BDR. Landowners also make a one-time stewardship contribution to support the expenses ORLT incurs in monitoring environmental conditions on the property every year. Stewardship contributions are placed in a dedicated fund to help cover ORLT’s responsibility for monitoring and upholding the terms of the CE forever. Possible additional costs to the donor include donor's legal and financial advisor fees, a title report and title insurance, a survey fee if a new survey is necessary, and an appraisal fee.