Skip to main content

Photograph by Thomas Sprunger at Hathaway Preserve at Ross Run, ACRES Land Trust

Yuhas Woods, Red-tail Land Conservancy

Photograph by Keith Dunlap, Lowry Karst Preserve, Indiana Karst Conservancy

Photograph by Karen Cody, Swansons Bluff, NICHES Land Trust

Land Protection Options

Land trusts frequently work with landowners to preserve their legacy and protect the special places they care about most. Here are four common ways land trusts help landowners achieve their conservation goals:


Donating land to a qualified conservation organization is inspiring and a powerful way to preserve your land and legacy for future generations. It is also an important financial decision that may offer significant tax benefits.

Bargain Sale

If an outright donation doesn’t fit your budget, but you’d still like the property to be protected, a bargain sale might be the answer. In a bargain sale, you sell property to a land trust for less than its fair market value. This makes it more affordable for the land trust and provides benefits to you, such as income from the sale and significant tax benefits.

Life Estate

In a life estate arrangement, you donate or sell your property to a land trust but continue to enjoy its use during your lifetime. After your death, or sooner if you choose, the land trust gains full control over the property. You may be eligible for an income tax deduction when the gift is made. The deduction is based on the fair market value of the donated property less the expected value of the reserved life estate.

Conservation Easement

A conservation easement is a legal agreement between you and a land trust that permanently limits uses of the land to protect its conservation values. It allows you to continue to own and use your land, sell it or pass it on to heirs. The land trust is responsible for making sure the terms of the easement are followed. Donated conservation easements can qualify as an income tax deduction. The deduction is based on the difference between the land’s value with the easement and its value without the easement. Placing a conservation easement on your property may also result in property tax savings.

Consult a land trust to further discuss these and other land protection options to determine which best meets your goals and needs. Be sure to consult your legal and financial advisors as well to determine how the land protection options will impact your specific tax and/or estate circumstances.