Illinois conservation land trusts have helped preserve more than 200,000 acres of open land in Illinois over the last 50 years. The conservation land trust movement is gaining momentum and is supported by private landowners who are concerned about disappearing open spaces, farmland and wildlife habitat, deteriorating watersheds and the need for increased local recreational opportunities, according to the Prairie State Conservation Coalition’s recent census.
“As we move into the 21st Century, Illinois residents are supporting conservation land trusts’ efforts to protect private land from inappropriate development,” said Brook McDonald, president of the Prairie State Conservation Coalition, Illinois’ state-wide association of conservation land trusts.
“Residents understand that more open space improves their quality of life, keeps property taxes low and ensures healthier communities for the future,” said McDonald.
There are 40 conservation land trusts in Illinois. Conservation land trusts are local, not-for-profit organizations that provide private property owners with a variety of legal tools to protect their property from inappropriate future development.
The most popular tool is a conservation easement, a legal agreement between a private property owner and a conservation land trust that allows the land to remain in private ownership. These agreements permanently restrict the type and amount of future development and activities that are permitted on a property to protect the land’s scenic and conservation values. In return, the property owner may receive significant income, estate and property tax benefits.
The Land Conservancy of McHenry County (TLC), the local conservation land trust, has preserved nearly 2,000 acres of land in McHenry County, the vast majority of which are preserved by permanent conservation easements. These lands are still owned by individuals and families who pay property taxes (at a reduced rate), still live on and use the lands as they have, and can pass the property on to heirs or sell it in the future. However, they rest assured that the land will never be developed.
In partnership with the McHenry County Farm Bureau, TLC is hosting a workshop for McHenry County landowners interested in learning more about how preservation of their land with a conservation easement can help them realize personal, estate planning and income tax deduction goals. Legal, tax, property valuation and conservation easement experts will be on hand, as will local individuals who have worked with TLC to preserve their lands with conservation easement.