How We Do It
North Olympic Land Trust works in cooperation with willing landowners and local communities to identify the farmland, forests, shorelines and wetlands we all love and conserve them for the years to come. Our intention is to help protect the habitat, resources, and aesthetics that define the North Olympic Peninsula. Our approach is successful because it is collaborative, voluntary and incentive-based.
North Olympic Land Trust uses two main tools to permanently conserve properties across Clallam County: land ownership and a land trust tool called conservation easements.
A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and North Olympic Land Trust that permanently protects a property’s conservation values. Conservation easements essentially remove intensive development opportunity from precious land – forever.
Conservation easements are usually appealing to willing landowners for several reasons:
- Landowners continue to own the land – they can sell, lease, bequeath or donate the land with a conservation easement on it.
- Since the easement is associated with the property’s title, the land is protected forever, even as it changes hands.
- The Land Trust works with landowners to make sure the language of an easement is tailored to both the landowners and the Land Trust’s needs and goals. Conservation easements may apply to an entire property or a portion of it.
- Income tax, estate tax, property tax and/or gift taxes may be reduced or eliminated.
Conservation easements can be donated to North Olympic Land Trust. Or in cases where there are exceptional conservation values that offer significant public benefit, there may be available funding sources, such as grants, to facilitate purchase of an easement. As required by the IRS, the value of a conservation easement, whether for donation or purchase, is always established by a qualified appraisal.
Once a conservation easement is in place, North Olympic Land Trust pledges to ensure responsible stewardship of the property by the current and subsequent landowners. This is accomplished through ongoing monitoring (typically on an annual basis), landowner consultation, and when needed, enforcement. We take our stewardship responsibilities seriously and are diligent in our efforts to make sure we remain in full compliance with the law and standards laid out by the Land Trust Alliance Accreditation Commission. We maintain a healthy stewardship endowment allowing us to confidently commit to our stewardship obligations. In addition, we are members of Terrafirma, a Land Trust member-owned conservation easement defense insurance program that provides additional protection for our responsibilities.
North Olympic Land Trust also protects land through owning it outright. Landowners may donate property to the Land Trust or, in cases where the conservation values match those of specific grant sources, the Land Trust can seek funding to purchase land. As required by the IRS, the donation value or purchase price of any property acquired by the Land Trust will be established by a qualified appraisal. Before the Land Trust can accept a donated property or pursue property purchase, it must be approved by our Board of Directors. As a generalization, properties owned by the Land Trust are open to the public, unless the property is physically inaccessible or has particularly sensitive habitat. All lands are managed in accordance with best practices established by the Land Trust Alliance Accreditation Commission.