Every fox hunt in America has members who own farm land over which fox hunts are held regularly. How many of these farms are protected by conservation easements? Conservation easements are essential to the preservation of open land. Without open land, there will be no fox hunting. Fox hunting easements do not protect land in a permanent fashion. Easements are of temporary value. Although these fox hunting easements have some value, keeping farms as open space for recreational use, including fox hunting, deer and turkey hunting and other outdoor sports by employing conservation easements, is essential to the future of these sports.
Every hunt in America should put the issue of conservation easements on their agenda for consideration. Here are some ideas and sources for consideration. Conservation easements preserve land use in perpetuity. These conservation easements can prohibit land uses such as subdivisions, shopping centers, malls, factory farms and many other undesirable practices. Language in these conservation easements can list those activities which are permitted such as farming, parks and many other uses which are consistent with outdoor recreation. Real estate developers can be effectively held at bay.
Generally speaking, a conservation easement is a legal document, often several pages in length, through which restrictions are placed upon real estate and these restrictions are conveyed to a qualified conservation organization which receives the donated restrictions and limitation on the real estate in question, protects these prohibitions on land use on a regular basis and defends these limitations in the event real estate developers, heirs and others try to terminate the land restrictions. Often, these qualified conservation organizations are publicly supported charities.
There are costs to the landowner connected with these transfers. First of all, every landowner interested in making such a gift should retain an attorney who has experience in drafting and implementing a conservation easement. This attorney should be capable of employing a qualified appraiser who can evaluate the property at its fair market value before the conservation easement is placed on the property and the value after said conservation easement is in place. I cannot emphasize enough the need to hire top quality appraisers. The Internal Revenue Service has effectively attacked poor appraisals which do not have the factual support for their opinions. A survey which can vary from state to state is also necessary. There are metes and bounds surveys and plannemetric surveys. The later is less expensive than the former, but the requirements vary from state to state as well as different qualified private conservation organizations. Most states and conservation organizations will charge the landowner fees for monitoring the easement and defending it. Your attorney should be experienced in advising the landowner with regard to the available conservation organizations whether public or private.
The conservation easement is a valuable estate planning tool. A properly drafted conservation easement can produce a deduction in the year of the transfer up to 30% of the donor’s income in the year of the donation and for the following five years. Tax planning can reduce state and federal taxes substantially and can play a substantial part in keeping the land in the hands of a family. Often, the property in question has to be sold in order to pay the estate tax on the value of the land. This problem can be avoided by good tax planning.
The purpose of the Hunting Habitat Conservation Award is to recognize those foxhunting clubs, individuals and organizations that have made significant and enduring contributions towards the preservation of rural countryside and its flora and fauna.
There is no greater threat to our sport than the loss of hunting venue; no more painful loss than the serenity and peace of provided by the pastoral scene. There is no greater injustice than not to recognize those people and organizations that toil to keep us close to the land and the wild animals that enhance our very existence. We hope that you will give serious thought to sending in a nomination. You can see previous winners here
In addition to the conservation trophy and recognition at the annual members meeting, the Hunting Habitat Conservation winning Hunt will receive a $5,000 cash award!
Foxhunting cannot continue without land conservation, a truism that is an often repeated mantra of the MFHA. Toward that end, the MFHA Foundation instituted District Conservation Awards to recognize conservation efforts in the various MFHA districts, and to inspire future land conservation efforts among members of the foxhunting family.
The award is an engraved silver julep cup from the MFHA Foundation, as well as a one-year subscription to Covertside.
We hope that you will give serious thought to sending in a nomination to your District Representative. There is no greater threat to our sport than the loss of hunting venue; no more painful loss than the serenity and peace of provided by the pastoral scene. There is no greater injustice than not to recognize those people and organizations that toil to keep us close to the land and the wild animals that enhance our very existence.