14. GIS For Conservation Easement Documentation

Georgia Conservation Tax Credit Program (GA DNR)

Georgia Land Conservation Program (https://glcp.georgia.gov/)

Conservation Easements (https://glcp.georgia.gov/conservation-easements)

Georgia Conservation Tax Credit (https://glcp.georgia.gov/georgia-conservation-tax-credit)

Conservation Easements

A conservation easement, a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and an easement holder, allows the landowner to impose permanent restrictions on the way the property is used. Conservation values are protected by extinguishing some property rights, such as mining and subdivision, while reinforcing rights such as passive recreation, agriculture, silviculture, and some limited construction.  Conservation easements provide landowners with a legal means of protecting their properties’ conservation values, while maintaining ownership, retaining certain uses of their land, and earning tax benefits.

Georgia Conservation Tax Credit:  The GCTC is a financial incentive for landowners to help protect Georgia’s natural resources.  Landowners who donate fee-title lands or conservation easements to a government entity, state agency, or a Land Trust Alliance accredited land trust qualified organization may apply for a credit against their state income taxes.  Approved donors may earn tax credits equal to 25 percent of the fair market value of their donations, up to $250,000 for individual donors and $500,000 for corporate and partnership donors.

Exhibit A – Requirements for Conservation Easements and Restrictive Covenants (Page 6) 

  • A baseline documentation report that provides a detailed description of the condition of the land at the time the conservation easement is placed on the property, as well as a forest or agricultural management plan if the easement deed warrants such a plan. (Sample baseline report, PDF)
  • A provision that prohibits silvicultural and agricultural activities that are not in accordance with best management practices published by the Georgia Forestry Commission and Soil and Water Conservation Commission. (Georgia BMP Guidelines)
  • A provision stating that no amendments shall be made to the conservation easement without the approval of the Department. The Department shall have 90 days to comment on any requested amendment. (The landowner should consult a lawyer before entering into a conservation easement)
  • A provision for a vegetated buffer of at least 100 feet on each side of any perennial stream and a buffer of 50 feet on each side of any intermittent stream in which 75 percent tree canopy cover shall be maintained.
    • Sources for GIS hydrology layers are the NRCS Geospatial Data Gateway (National Hydrography Dataset and/or Digital Raster Graphics, aka USGS topo quads)
    • One could update the above sources by digitizing the streams/rivers from the NAIP imagery and/or manually marking the streams with a GPS
  • A provision prohibiting subdivision on properties smaller than 500 acres and permitting only one subdivision if the property is larger than 500 acres.  A provision in the conservation easement that identifies the donation’s Conservation Purposes.
    • Assuming you already had the property surveyed and transferred to the GIS, carving out large or small pieces is straight forward (Start Editing >> use the cut tool)
  • A provision in the conservation easement that states that the conservation restrictions run with the land in perpetuity and that any reserved use shall be consistent with the Conservation Purposes. (The landowner should consult a lawyer before entering into a conservation easement)
  • A provision that prohibits any new construction or other activities on the property within 150 feet of perennial and intermittant streams; that would cause impervious surfaces to cover more than one percent of the property; and that otherwise harm the protected conservation values for which the donation is being conveyed.  (See the provision above regarding tree canopy cover)
  • A provision in the conservation easement that prohibits the Grantee from subsequently transferring the interest in land unless the transfer is to another public or private conservation agency that will maintain the Conservation Purposes for which the donation was originally intended.  (Lawyer!)
  • A provision in the conservation easement that provides that the donation of the less than-fee interest is a property right, immediately vested in the public or private conservation agency receiving the donation, and provides that the less-than-fee interest has a fair market value that is at least equal to the proportionate value that the conservation restriction at the time of the donation bears to the property as a whole at that time; the provision shall further provide that if subsequent unexpected changes in the conditions surrounding the property make impossible or impractical the property’s continued use for Conservation Purposes and judicial proceedings extinguish the easement or restrictions then the Grantee is entitled to a portion of the proceeds from the property’s subsequent sale, exchange, or involuntary conversion at least equal to the perpetual conservation restriction’s proportionate value.  GA DNR Tax Credit Certification Application Page 7 of 7 Revised January 2013
  • All provisions or restrictions pertaining to mineral rights must be consistent with the provisions of IRC Section 1.170A-14, and must otherwise prohibit future mining on the property.
  • A provision that prohibits the planting of non-native invasive species listed in Category 1, Category 1 Alert, or Category 2 of the ‘List of Non-Native Invasive Plants in Georgia’ published by the Georgia Exotic Pest Council.  (http://www.gaeppc.org/list/)