In New Hampshire we value rural character—a value that's reflected in a strong history of land conservation. Central to that history is conservation of privately owned land by means of what's called a "conservation easement deed" that limits future development. It's typically a family decision. A family chooses to conserve their land so that future generations will know the land as they do. The property stays on a town's tax rolls and its natural resources are protected in perpetuity. Land conservation benefits the public, and in most cases landowners are entitled to an income tax deduction similar to donating to a charitable organization. The public benefits include preservation of farm or forest resources, scenic or recreational values, or exemplary wildlife habitat—all spelled out in the IRS code.
Also recognizing those benefits, two-thirds of New Hampshire towns have voted to create funds that assist the permanent protection of land with high natural resource value. Town conservation funds often cover a landowner's expenses—a survey, perhaps, on up to outright purchase of a conservation easement. In most cases this is farmland or water resource land judged to be essential to a town's future needs.
Landowners typically work with a land trust to draft an easement deed that reflects the landowners' conservation goals—and that land trust is responsible for ensuring the development restrictions are honored. As always, the hope is that owners of exceptional natural resource land will contact one of the state's many land trusts when considering the future of their family land. Here in New Hampshire, we have a lot of past and present landowners to thank for choosing conservation. Here's to many more in the future!