1. Evaluate property: Land Trust staff will meet with you on your property to evaluate its agricultural, natural, or scenic values.  The Land Trust will determine if the property meets the organization’s criteria for accepting easements.  Land Trust staff will typically visit with you on your property a few times during the course of the easement donation.
  2. Determine your objectives and review alternatives: Meet with Land Trust staff to discuss your objectives for the property and review your options for uses, restrictions, resource protection, and the costs associated with completing the easement. You should review those options with your personal tax and legal advisors.
  3. Discuss costs and agree upon contribution for completing easement:  In accepting a conservation easement, the Land Trust incurs transaction expenses and assumes a legal obligation to uphold the terms of the conservation easement forever.  You are responsible for covering transaction costs and for providing funds for the stewardship of the conservation easement, these costs can range from $35-50k.
  4. Appraisal of conservation easement: If you or your advisor determines that the easement donation will qualify as a charitable donation, you must retain an appraiser to determine the value of the easement. As the recipient of your easement gift, the Land Trust is prohibited from representing its value and maintains an “arm’s length” from the appraisal process.  The Land Trust can provide you with a list of appraisers with experience appraising conservation easements.
  5. 5. Review draft easement with your legal counsel: The Land Trust will prepare a draft conservation easement document that reflects your objectives. We recommend that you review the draft with your legal and tax counsel. Provisions relating to your objectives may be revised at this time.
  6. Land Trust due diligence: The Land Trust requires proof of good title and notice of any existing mortgage on the property. If there is a mortgage, the lender must subordinate its rights in the property to the conservation easement in order to meet IRS regulations and Land Trust policy.  If third parties own minerals, additional steps must be taken to satisfy IRS requirements. The Land Trust also completes an environmental hazards screening to make sure that no hazardous waste exists on the property.
  7. Prepare baseline documentation report: The Land Trust will arrange for the creation of a baseline documentation report, which describes the condition of the property at the time of the donation. The IRS requires this report.  The report documents the natural, agricultural, and scenic values of the property, as well as any buildings or agricultural improvements.  You will be asked to provide information about the property and will be provided the report in draft form for your review.  The report is signed at the time of closing.  Both you and the Land Trust receive copies of the report.
  8. Land Trust Board approval: After reviewing and revising the draft easement, the project is submitted to the Lands Committee of the Mesa Land Trust Board.  The Committee may conduct a site visit and will either forward the easement project to the full board for approval or request additional modifications to the easement.  Once modifications are agreed upon, the easement is forwarded to the Board for final approval.
  9. Sign & Record easement: After a final review of the documents, you and the Land Trust’s president and secretary will sign the easement and baseline documentation report. The easement will be recorded with the County Clerk and Recorder.
  10. Submit Form 8283 to the IRS: You must attach IRS 8283 (for “Noncash Charitable Contributions”) to the income tax return that you submit for the year in which the easement was donated.  The Land Trust must sign this form.
  11. Submit Tax Credit Application to State of Colorado: If you and your legal and tax advisors have determined that you may be eligible to pursue conservation easement tax credits from the State of Colorado, then you will have to apply to the Colorado Department of Revenue. This involves a formal application, a number of attachments and a fee. You may also submit an application for a preliminary advisory opinion on a conservation easement prior to closing on a conservation easement.