What is a conservation easement?
It is a voluntary agreement between you (the landowner) and a nonprofit or government entity dedicated to land conservation, such as ours. This agreement is established under Law Num. 183 of December 27, 2001, as amended, also known as the Puerto Rico Conservation Easement Law. The law was created as a way to provide alternatives for the protection in perpetuity of lands with natural, cultural or agricultural values. It allows private landowners to participate directly in nature conservation by establishing a conservation easement.
Legally, a conservation easement can be dened as an encumbrance on land property that imposes restrictions on allowed land uses by its owners–both present and future—in order to ensure its protection in perpetuity.
Who may establish a conservation easement?
Any landowner, be it an individual, a married couple, a succession, corporation, etc. What’s really important is that all title holders must be in voluntary agreement.
Who may serve as title holder for a conservation easement?
When dealing with conservation easements, there are always two owners involved: The property title holder and the owner of the easement, who is in charge of ensuring that all conservation conditions are met. Conservation easement owners may be any government agency dedicated to conservation, or a qualified, tax-exempt nonprofit organization dedicated to conservation and established for more than 10 years, such as the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico.
What does a conservation easement protect?
Depending on the unique features of your property, a conservation easement may meet specific objectives, such as: 1) Preserving its natural, agricultural, forest or scenic values, or its condition as an open space; 2) protecting watersheds; 3) maintaining or improving water or air quality; 4) conserving its cultural value; 5) conserving its agricultural value.
Is all development activity restricted under a conservation easement?
Not necessarily. A conservation easement may include all of your property or specific area of it. Even within a property with a conservation easement, limited development may be worked into the agreement. The amount and location of possible structures will depend on the property’s conservation value in its entirety, as well as its total size. You may also carry out certain activities agreed upon during negotiations, such as ecological agriculture or livestock—among others—as long as they do not affect the land’s conservation values.
What are the rights and obligations of the parties?
As property owner, you retain the rights and obligations of any title holder, except those that you expressly renounce to in the public deed, such as the right to subdivide your land. These restrictions are agreed upon between you (the landowner) and our organization (the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico). We have an obligation to diligently supervise that all dispositions in the agreement are met. Among these are annual inspection visits to the property.
Which tax benefits may the owner of an eligible property receive?
Under the Puerto Rico Conservation Easement Law, any landowner who establishes an eligible conservation easement may opt for a tax credit equal to 50% of the value of the conservation easement, as determined by an appraisal report prepared by a certified and independent professional.
The Puerto Rico Conservation Easement Law also contemplates donations of property. In this case, if you decide to donate an eligible property as a landowner, pursuant to the dispositions of the law, you will be eligible for a tax credit equal to 50% of the donated property’s market value before the establishment of the conservation easement, as determined by an appraisal prepared by a certified and independent professional.
Which lands does the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico consider eligible?
Pursuant to the dispositions of the law, the property must possess natural, agricultural, forest, or scenic attributes, be part of a watershed or be considered of high cultural value in terms of its historical, archaeological or architectural features. We will pay special attention to lands whose conservation will ensure protection of functional ecosystems, historic properties with unique opportunities for restoration and agricultural lands that support or constitute buffer zones for important natural areas.
Who may be allowed on the property once the conservation easement is established?
The title holder, guests and family members may continue to enjoy the property as usual. Granting access to the general public is not required under the Law, but it may be stipulated in the agreement if the owner wishes to do so. We do encourage this, with the purpose of including your conservation easement in our tours and educational or scientific programming.
In compliance with our duty to ensure that the conservation easement’s conditions are met, we have a right to inspect the property once a year, or whenever we may suspect violations to any of the established conditions.
What procedure should be followed so that the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico accepts a land donation or conservation easement under the Conservation Easement Law?
Initially, you may contact us any way you wish: by giving us a phone call, mailing us a letter or by sending us an email. To begin the evaluation process, we require a formal communication in writing from you as landowner, in which you express your interest in establishing a conservation easement. This communication must including basic information about your property, including: location (map or plan), sale deed, size (acreage), ID number, purpose of the easement and a brief description of what you as landowner consider to be the property’s ecological, agricultural or cultural/historical values.
By protecting your legacy forever you also increase the percentage of protected land in Puerto Rico, which is currently only 8%.
Help us reach our goal!
33% of the islands of Puerto Rico protected by 2033