Other Land Conservation Options

Bargain Sale

The landowner sells their property to a conservation organization for a cost below the appraised market value. The difference between the sale price and the property’s fair market value may be treated as a charitable donation. This option potentially reduces the capital gains tax on the sale and possibly an income tax deduction as well.


  • Landowner benefits from a charitable tax deduction
  • Landowner is free of the real estate tax burden
  • The size of the estate is reduced, thereby potentially reducing future state and federal tax consequences

Sale at Fair Market Value

Sometimes a conservation organization will purchase land at fair market value due to its unique conservation value or strategic importance. Usually these types of transactions require multiple partners and funding sources. No charitable deduction is available since it is a sale at full market price.


  • Landowner benefits from full market value
  • Landowner is free of the real estate tax burden

Charitable Remainder Trust

There is a multitude of ways to structure a charitable remainder trust. The following is just one example.

A landowner, with the help of an attorney having experience in planned giving, establishes a Charitable Remainder Trust or CRT. The landowner donates a conservation restriction on that property to a land trust organization. The restricted land is then donated to the CRT, which allows for a charitable tax deduction. The Trust sells the property and invests the proceeds. An agreed amount is paid as an annuity, or in a slightly different structure as an agreed percentage of the CRT’s assets distributed annually. In both cases, payments are for a set term or over the beneficiary’s lifetime. At the end of the duration, any remaining funds revert to the land trust organization.


  • Landowner enjoys capital gains tax benefits and possible income tax benefits
  • A guaranteed income stream for a period of time
  • Diversifies the landowners assets
  • The land is permanently protected

Limited Development

This option allows the landowner to develop a portion of their property while keeping the remainder of the land permanently protected. This is achieved through a donation or conservation restriction. Sometimes the conservation organization will partner with the landowner or sell outright the development portion to fund the conservation component.


  • Income to the landowner
  • Retains conservation values on a portion of the property

Conservation loans

If an interested party is unable to make an outright gift to the Trust, they might want to consider making a loan to HCT.


  • Income to the person making the loan
  • Ability for HCT to be more flexible and possibly experience less expensive borrowing costs than from conventional sources

Loan Guarantees

An interested party may also opt to guarantee a loan that the Trust has taken out to purchase specific land parcels.


  • Facilitates the loan process

Harvard Conservation Trust is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Copyright © 2022. All rights reserved.