By DAVID BORAKS
The impending expiration of a tax credit for property owners who donate or protect land from development is bringing a flurry of activity this fall for North Carolina conservation groups, including the Davidson Lands Conservancy. The DLC last week announced it has obtained a conservation easement on 27 acres in southern Iredell County that includes a stream, a nearly mature pine-hardwood forest, red foxes and rare orchids and ferns.
The conservancy is not releasing specifics about the family or the property, to protect the site and its flora and fauna. But Roy Alexander, executive director of the DLC, said the family wants to protect the property from the kind of development that happened on a nearby parcel.
“They hate anything like that happening on any part of their property, so they just put a conservation easement on the entire property,” Alexander said.
The agreement allows the family to make improvements on their own home and its 2.57-acre lot.
The DLC and the family have discussed the easement for about five years. With state incentives about to expire, closing the deal became a priority, Alexander said.
North Carolina’s legislature during the last session voted to repeal the conservation tax credit as of Dec. 31, 2013, as part of a major tax reform package. While many land owners who preserve property are motivated by concern for the land, conservation experts say the tax credit has been an added incentive.
“It’s a nice system of rewarding people who do this thing for the benefit of the whole community, and it’s a nice incentive,” Alexander said this week.
The law has allowed property owners to donate land or a conservation easement – a binding agreement not to develop – in exchange for a tax credit. The credit is equal to the difference between what their land would be worth if it were developed and what is worth preserved – up to $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for married couples or corporations.
The local deal is among many reported in the past few months as property owners and conservancies have scrambled to take advantage of the tax credit before it goes away.
The Catawba Lands Conservanacy recently announced an agreement to preserve The Fork Farm and Stables, a 1,406-acre regional outdoor recreation area, working farm and event facility, in Stanly County. That deal was made possible by a donation to the Catawba Lands Conservancy by Jim Cogdell, chairman of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
AID FOR CLOSING, TOO
The fully of deals is also happening with help from a major grant that is paying for surveys, closing costs, appraisals and other legal work. The money comes from the Money in the Ground Fund of the Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC).
“CTNC is contributing up to $1.5 million of its own funds to support land trusts in completing dozens of donated land conservation deals before Jan. 1, 2014,” CTNC Executive Director Reid Wilson said in the Davidson Lands Conservancy’s press release this week. “We’re doing this because the state’s income tax credit for landowners who donate their land or a conservation easement, will expire January 1, 2014.”
As of Nov. 25, CTNC had approved grants for 43 projects totaling more than $774,000, to 15 land trusts. The projects will protect more than 5,000 acres and result in the protection of more than $18 million in donated land values, according to the DLC.
CNTC also has gotten in on the act itself. On Dec. 5, the group announced the purchased of 523 acres on Humpback Mountain, in Avery and McDowell counties. The land borders the Blue Ridge Parkway for nearly 3.5 miles between mileposts 319 and 323. The Nov. 20 deal came with funding from Fred and Alice Stanback of Salisbury, the NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Acres for America Program. (See that announcement below.)
The Davidson Lands Conservancy is a local nonprofit dedicated to protecting open space and natural areas in and around Davidson. The organization said it would help the landowners with stewardship of the property in perpetuity.
Davidson Lands Conservancy website
Nov. 25, 2013, UNCC.edu, “State tax credit ending, land trusts see flurry of preservation efforts” – Amber Veverka of the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute
Nov. 14, 2013, CatawbaLands.org, “The Fork in Stanly Count Is Now Conserved by CCC”
BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY DEAL
Humpback Mountain Property Protected on Blue Ridge Parkway
Conservation Trust for North Carolina Marks 50th Parkway Property Conserved
Raleigh, N.C. – The Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC) recently purchased a spectacular 523-acre property on Humpback Mountain in Avery and McDowell counties. The tract borders the Blue Ridge Parkway for nearly 3.5 miles between mileposts 319 and 323.
With this land purchase, the Conservation Trust has now protected 50 properties along the Blue Ridge Parkway, totaling 31,309 acres.
The Humpback Mountain property contains over three miles of clear-running streams. These tributaries of both the North Toe River and the North Fork Catawba River will remain pristine for wild trout populations and for drinking water supplies for downstream communities. Preservation of the property will also maintain healthy forests and wildlife habitat, and will prevent any changes to a potentially developable ridge top bordering the Parkway.
The Conservation Trust purchased the tract on November 20 with generous funding from Fred and Alice Stanback of Salisbury, the NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Acres for America Program.
“Conserving the Humpback Mountain tract is essential to preserving scenic views that draw millions of people to the Blue Ridge Parkway each year,” said Mark Woods, Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent. “We congratulate the Conservation Trust for North Carolina for protecting its fiftieth property along the Parkway.”
“Permanent protection of the Humpback Mountain property will ensure clean water downstream, contribute to a growing conserved area for habitat, and increase recreational opportunities for North Carolina families,” said Margaret Newbold, CTNC Associate Director.
Preservation of this property expands the existing wildlife corridor linking neighboring state and federally owned properties, increasing the capacity to support healthy animal populations. The tract is adjacent to CTNC’s Little Tablerock Mountain project, which CTNC protected in 2004 and subsequently conveyed to the NC Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) for inclusion in its Game Lands program. The Conservation Trust will convey the Humpback Mountain property to WRC as well, expanding public access to conserved lands.
Protection of Humpback Mountain continues CTNC’s broader efforts, in close cooperation with local land trusts and government agencies, to protect the highest priority scenic views, streams, and forests along the Parkway. CTNC’s efforts are guided by a sophisticated GIS-based conservation plan and mapping tool to ensure that limited resources are focused on the most critical lands to conserve.
Highlights among CTNC’s 50 Parkway projects include Asheville’s 17,000-acre drinking water supply watershed, Waynesville’s 8,000-acre watershed, and a 1,500-acre property bordering the Orchard at Altapass near Spruce Pine. CTNC has conveyed 26 of the protected properties, totaling over 3,059 acres, to government agencies for public recreation.
Other land trusts that conserve land along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Avery and McDowell Counties include: Blue Ridge Conservancy (www.blueridgeconservancy.org), based in Boone; Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina (www.foothillsconservancy.org), based in Morganton; and Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (www.appalachian.org), based in Asheville.
The Conservation Trust for North Carolina is dedicated to protecting the Blue Ridge Parkway’s natural and scenic corridor. CTNC has conserved 31,309 acres in 50 locations along the Parkway. CTNC also promotes, represents and assists 23 local land trusts so that they can protect more land in the communities they serve. Land trusts preserve land and waterways to safeguard our way of life. They work with landowners to ensure natural lands are protected for clean drinking water, recreation, tourism, healthy forests, and working farms that produce fresh, local foods.