Landowner Options for Conserving Land

Since 1959, Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation has been a leader in land conservation on Martha’s Vineyard. By working closely with landowners, towns and other organizations, we have protected roughly 2,900 acres of land across the island. We protect land by receiving gifts or bequests of land from landowners, by receiving gifts of conservation restrictions from landowners, and by occasionally purchasing land or conservation restrictions. For a donor, perhaps the most satisfying part of donating conservation land is the assurance that the land will be conserved for forever. Gifts of land, bargain sales and gifts of conservation restrictions may also create tax benefits for the landowner. If you are interested in donating land, please contact Adam Moore, Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation’s Executive Director, at 508-693-5207 for a confidential discussion of your land.

Ways to protect land

Outright Donation of the Fee Interest
Donating land by deed is a fairly simple procedure which transfers not only the title of the land to Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation but also the management responsibility for the property. Income tax deductions and estate benefits may be available and avoidance of capital gains taxes may also be a benefit to some donors of land. Most of the land that we protect is the result of fee interest gifts from landowners. Donations or bargain sales must be accompanied by an appraisal conducted by a qualified, independent appraiser within 60 days of the donation.

Conservation Restriction
A conservation restriction is a legal agreement that permanently protects the natural features of a parcel of land by limiting the property’s uses. With a conservation restriction, the landowner conveys certain rights to a property to a conservation organization, such as Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation. Conservation restrictions are permanent encumbrances and run with the land. Conservation restrictions can be given or sold, and Sheriff’s Meadow accepts gifts of conservation restrictions and also purchases them. Conservation restrictions must be approved and signed by the landowner, Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, the Board of Selectmen for the town in which the land is located, and the Secretary of the Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs. Donations or bargain sales must be accompanied by an appraisal conducted by a qualified, independent appraiser within 60 days of the donation.

Remainder Interest
A landowner may wish to donate property to ensure that it will be preserved in perpetuity, but may also want to continue to live on or use the property during his lifetime. By giving land while reserving the right to continue to use the property during his lifetime, such a landowner has kept a “life estate.” The interest given to a charitable organization is called a “remainder interest.”

The landowner can continue to enjoy the property during his life and know that it will be protected in perpetuity. Such a gift may entitle the landowner to an income tax deduction (contributions are decreased by the value of the retained life estate as determined by the actuarial tables published by the Internal Revenue Service).

One of the simplest ways to make a gift to Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation is through your will. You can name Sheriff’s Meadow as the direct beneficiary of specific assets, of a portion of your estate, or of your residual estate after payment of other taxes. Bequests to Sheriff’s Meadow are not subject to federal estate tax. If you wish to donate land in your will, please specify whether you intend that land to be dedicated to conservation. Please contact Executive Director Adam Moore at (508) 693-5207 or a with any questions about a potential bequest of land.

Trail Easements
Like conservation restrictions, trail easements are legal documents and represent an agreement between a landowner and a conservation organization. With a trail easement, the landowner grants the right of public access to the conservation organization, and the conservation organization agrees to maintain the trail. Again, like conservation restrictions, trail easements are often given to the conservation organization but are also sold at times.

We believe that trail easements offer a unique and attractive means of conserving land because they can apply to so many properties. Small, nondescript parcels that may not appear to have great conservation value may nevertheless be perfect candidates for a trail easement. Such parcels may connect an inaccessible property to a public road, they may connect a property to an existing trail, or they may connect two disjointed pieces of conservation land. Furthermore, a landowner may convey a trail easement over a property without restricting in any way the use of the rest of the land.

Conserved Land

Since 1959, Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation is very pleased to have conserved roughly 2,900 acres of the island of Martha’s Vineyard. Please click the link on the right to view all of the land that has been conserved by Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation.  The map includes land in which Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation owns the fee interest, and land over which we hold conservation restrictions. We thank all of the individuals who have given us their land, given us conservation restrictions over their land, and given us funding to acquire and maintain land.

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