Foothills Land Conservancy is dedicated to protecting, preserving, and enhancing the lands and environments of the Southern Appalachian region and promoting the character of the land for the benefit of the general public, now and in the future. Since 1985, FLC has helped individuals and families protect farms, woodlands and open spaces – ranging from more than a 1000 acres of mountain land to a 5 acre donation for a city park. If you own property and are considering preserving it in perpetuity, Foothills can walk you through the options.
To date, FLC’s cumulative land preservation efforts now cover 65,900 acres within the 7 states of Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and recent additions of Alabama and Virginia. Foothills now has land preservation partnerships in 28 Tennessee counties. The Foothills Land Conservancy office is located in Maryville, Tennessee. To learn about our most recent land preservation partnerships, click here.
Conservation easements are the most popular preservation method for landowners. FLC works with landowners who wish to preserve their property in its natural state ‘in perpetuity’ or forever. When a land owner and a land trust decide to move forward with this option, they create a legal contract, called a conservation easement that is valid now and in the future. Both parties work together to ensure the landowners wishes are included, covering allowable land uses as well as prohibited activities on the property. Please contact Bill Clabough, FLC’s Executive Director, at 865-681-8326 with any land preservation inquiries.
All conservation easements coordinated through Foothills are customized, voluntary, approved by a Board of Directors and monitored at least once a year to make sure the landowners wishes specified in the easement are being followed. When landowners donate a conservation easement they maintain ownership and management of their land and can sell or pass the land on to their heirs while foregoing future development rights. They can also decide to bequeath the land to private or public entities.
In regards to eligibility of tax incentives for placing an conservation easement on a piece of property, if the donation benefits the public by permanently protecting important conservation resources and meets other federal tax code requirements, it can qualify as a tax-deductible charitable donation. Foothills Land Conservancy does not provide legal advice or tax counsel. Seek the advice of a qualified attorney and a tax consultant familiar with appropriate subjects. Feel free to contact the FLC office at (865) 681-8326 with further inquiries.
What makes a property special and unique in short, worthy of conservation? Foothills Land Conservancy follows the principles set forth by the IRS’s Internal Revenue Code and Regulations. Below is the specific language from this code:
A) In general. –For purposes of this subsection, the term “conservation purpose” means–
(i) the preservation of land areas for outdoor recreation by, or the education of, the general public,
(ii) the protection of a relatively natural habitat of fish, wildlife, or plants, or similar ecosystem,
(iii) the preservation of open space (including farmland and forest land) where such preservation is–
(I) for the scenic enjoyment of the general public, or
(II) pursuant to a clearly delineated Federal, State, or local governmental conservation policy, and will yield a significant public benefit, or
(iv) the preservation of an historically important land area or a certified historic structure.
The conservation purposes mentioned above paraphrase those found in the Internal Revenue Code and Regulations. At least one of these must be satisfied in order for a Conservation Easement to qualify for a tax deduction, and should be recited in the document. It is essential that at least one of these be the result of the Conservation Easement. Merely reciting these does not assure that the rest of the easement document actually accomplishes these goals, just as merely reciting these does not assure qualification for a tax deduction.
Fee Simple Ownership (Land Donation) The landowner grants all property rights, title and interest to the land trust. The land trust owns and manages the land.
Undivided Partial Interests – The landowner grants a shared, percentage ownership in the property to the land trust over several years until the land trust has full ownership. Land trusts will eventually own land, but joint ownership in interim.
Devise Land is conveyed to land trust at death of the landowner through the landowner’s will.
Remainder Interest/Reserved Life Estate The landowner conveys the land to the land trust, but continues to live on or use the property until his or her death. “Remainder interest” in property then reverts to land trust.
Bargain Sale – Land or conservation easement is sold to land trust for less than fair market value.
Right of First Refusal – The landowner agrees to grant the land trust the right to meet any bona fide offer to purchase the property.
Lease – Land is leased to a land trust or an individual for a specified period of years. Restrictions are placed on its use during that time period, effectively postponing development.
Deed Restrictions – Terms are placed in the deed to the property that restrict certain uses of the real estate by subsequent owners.
Mutual Covenants – Several landowners mutually agree to restrict their land. May not involve a land trust. Not necessarily permanent or binding on future owners.
Management Agreement – The landowner and the land trust enter into a generally informal contract concerning how the property’s natural resources are to be managed.
Registry Programs – The landowner enters into a legally non-binding agreement to protect the conservation values of his or her land, and the land trust recognizes the arrangement with a certificate, plaque, etc.
Landowner Contact - The land trust notifies the landowner of the unique conservation values of his or her property.