Conservation

How To Preserve Prairies

Monarch butterfly at Kirchoff Family Farm.

There are several options available to landowners who wish to preserve their prairie while keeping their land in private ownership.  NPAT primarily assists landowners who wish to preserve their prairie in two ways: 1) accepting donations of property and 2) holding conservation easements.

A number of landowners have donated their prairies to NPAT to protect them forever.  As a nonprofit charitable organization and land trust, NPAT can accept gifts of property in fee simple.  Lands donated to NPAT are held in perpetuity for the benefit of their prairies, native plants, and wildlife.  Donation of the property is in most cases tax-deductible as it is a charitable contribution.

A conservation easement is an agreement between a landowner and a private organization or land trust such as NPAT.  By donating a conservation easement, a landowner retains title to his or her property, but agrees to limit or prohibit certain kinds of development, subdivision, or other activities on the property.

The purpose of an easement with NPAT is to preserve prairie remnants or restorations on a tract of land, and can include compatible agricultural productivity such as use as a native hay meadow or managed sustainable grazing.  The IRS recognizes donation of a conservation easement as a charitable gift and may result in a federal income tax deduction, reduced property taxes, and reduced estate taxes paid by heirs.

To speak with someone at NPAT about potential donation of land or a conservation easement, contact us:

Native Prairies Association of Texas 415 N. Guadalupe St. PMB 385, San Marcos, TX 78666, 512-392-2288 or [email protected].

What is a Conservation Easement?

A conservation easement is a legal agreement placed by a landowner that restricts certain future uses of a piece of property.  The purpose of an easement with a land trust is to ensure that the property will be managed to preserve natural features, historic sites, scenery, traditional land uses, or other values.  NPAT accepts donations of conservation easements specifically to protect prairies.

For example, a landowner who donates a conservation easement may want to preserve wildlife habitat while reserving the right to build a house or to practice limited agriculture or business activities. Or a landowner may wish to prohibit development or subdivision of his or her property so the land will continue to be used for ranching.

The goal of most conservation easements is to make sure that the current uses and condition of a piece of land are not greatly altered in the future.  NPAT accepts donations of conservation easements to protect prairies, and many other land trusts in Texas will accept conservation easements to preserve natural features, wildlife habitat, open space, outdoor recreation, or historic land and structures.

Conservation easements are usually donated to private organizations called land trusts. A land trust is a nonprofit charitable organization that protects land for its natural, historic, or economic value. The land trust is responsible for scheduling annual visits to the property to make sure that the terms of the easement are followed.

The land trust may also support the landowner by providing expertise or assisting with management activities on the property. The land trust can provide assistance and allow the landowner to conserve private property without significant governmental involvement.

Conservation easements accepted by NPAT are permanent, meaning that the easement runs with the title of the property forever. A property under conservation easement may be sold or inherited, but future owners of the land must follow the terms of the easement. Permanent conservation easements may confer tax benefits to the donor.

Conservation easements are an effective means of conserving prairies while maintaining private ownership.  The agreement is tailored to meet both the practical needs of the landowner and their wishes for conserving their prairie.  The terms of the easement are flexible and each one is unique, as they are written to carry out each landowner’s wishes for the future of his or her property. 

To learn more about conservation easements in Texas visit the Texas Land Trust Council.