Green Land for Sale

NCCT has two green properties for sale for the purpose of supporting our work.

1. One-hundred-sixty acres in Town of Strongs Prairie, Adams County, located on 18th Drive off STH 21 just west of Arkdale. Property includes a 2-acre building zone, a 68-acre agricultural zone in crops, and 89 acres of forest. The property represents an opportunity to own a working farm with beautiful forested acreage at a reduced price because it will be sold with a conservation easement. Contact Janet Smith at 715-344-1910.

Bagley aerial

2. Twelve acres in the Town of Linwood, Portage County located between Highway 66 and Orchard Lane. Property is all wooded and located near the Wisconsin River Biron Flowage. The property will be sold without a conservation easement. Contact Gordon Whitemarsh at Whitemarsh Realty, Adams, 608-339-9001, or see listing at https://gordonwhitemarsh.com/properties/portage-county-12-wooded-acres/.

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Twelve acres in the Town of Linwood

 

Leaving a Forested Legacy Workshop

Land Trust Partnerships for Private Landowners

barred-owlThe preservation of forested land held in private ownership is an important legacy to leave to future generations. The Center for Land Use Education, in partnership with  North Central Conservancy Trust, will present a workshop in April to address the issues  of land ownership succession and forest fragmentation.

Over the next 20 years, most of Wisconsin’s privately owned forestland will be passed on  to the next generation. Decisions made by all private forest landowners (PFLs) now and  in the future can have long-reaching impacts on the ecological, social, and economic benefits forests provide to everyone, not just the landowner.

Do you own a forested tract? Are you concerned with protecting it, and passing it along to your heirs? There are options which can help you. The Leaving a Forested Legacy Workshop will address ways to protect your land from undesirable development or use, even when you are no longer able to oversee it. You will also be able to find out ways to pass this legacy to your children and grandchildren.

Expert panelists will speak on the following topics: family land ownership issues, land conservation options through land trusts, understanding local land-use regulation options to address forest fragmentation, and estate planning.

When: Thursday, April 17, 2014 from 6:00-8:00 pm
Where: Lee S. Dreyfus University Center, Room 374, 1015 Reserve Street, Stevens Point
Contact: Betsy Kerlin at 715-344-1910 or edncct@gmail.com to register for the event.
Please register by Monday, April 7th

This workshop is being offered at no cost thanks to the support of our partners at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Local organizations secure land for future Ice Age Trail in Marathon County

Permanently protected property features wetland forest and shoreline on undeveloped Rice Lake

Forty-one acres in the Town of Reid in Marathon County will one day hold a section of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, a 1,200-mile hiking path that traces the geology left by the most recent glacier, thanks to the partnership of two Wisconsin conservation organizations.

NCCT Rice LakeThe North Central Conservancy Trust, a Stevens-Point based land trust, sold the property to the Ice Age Trail Alliance, based out of Cross Plains, in early February. The property sits between two existing sections of the Ice Age Trail in Marathon and Portage Counties and will help link the Trail, one of 11 National Scenic Trails, through central Wisconsin.

“This property serves as an anchor point for the Trail in southern Marathon County,” said Kevin Thusius, director of land conservation for the Alliance. “Future Ice Age Trail will give area residents and visitors a unique and interesting outdoor experience, complemented by the natural features the property has to offer.”

The property includes 1,000 feet of shoreline on Rice Lake, a spring-fed, undeveloped marl lake. White cedar forest covers the majority of the property’s acreage and protects the water quality of the lake.

The land was originally gifted in 2011 to preserve these natural features. Claire Pfleger of Milwaukee donated the property as a gift to NCCT, which also retains a conservation easement that further protects the property from development.

The proceeds from the sale will go toward furthering the NCCT’s conservation work in central Wisconsin. Upon learning of the purchase, the Town of Reid and Marathon County both passed resolutions in support of the acquisition. The Ice Age Trail Alliance purchased the property using funds from the state Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, which protects the state’s most valuable natural areas and expands opportunities for outdoor recreation.

“In addition to protecting the shoreline and wetland forests, the property will be open to the public, guaranteeing the public enjoyment of this beautiful place for years to come,” said NCCT Executive Director Betsy Kerlin. “I am thankful to the Ice Age Trail Alliance for the opportunity to collaborate on this project.”

NCCT IATA GroupThe North Central Conservancy Trust works to protect scenic working lands and environmental resources for the benefit of the people of central Wisconsin. The North Central Conservancy Trust has preserved over 3,000 acres in eight counties. Learn more at ncctwi.org.

The Ice Age Trail Alliance is a nonprofit volunteer- and member-based organization established in 1958 that works to build, maintain and promote the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. One of only 11 National Scenic Trails, the Ice Age Trail is a thousand-mile footpath that highlights Wisconsin’s world-renowned Ice Age heritage and natural resources. Visit iceagetrail.org to learn more.

Farm Bill

Farm BillThe 2014 Farm Bill, signed into law by President Obama on February 7, provides more than $1 billion for conservation, exceeding all other federal sources of conservation funding. This bill will keep working farms and ranches in family hands, helping to restore and maintain our ways of life.

Read the full story here.

1,000 Acres Preserved In Portage County

Wilke Land

In November 2013, North Central Conservancy Trust and Richard and Sarah Wilke
signed a conservation easement on a 27 acre property located in the Town of New
Hope, Portage County. The Wilke easement will forever protect a scenic vista of Hintz Lake, a
diverse wetland ecosystem, a spring breeding area for waterfowl, and one of the largest fall
staging areas for geese and sandhill cranes in eastern Portage County. The signing of the Wilke
easement was significant as it pushed the total number of acres permanently protected in
Portage County by NCCT to well over 1,000 acres!

The Wilke easement includes more than one-third mile of shoreline and more than three and
one-half acres of a shallow bay. The upland parts of the property support a mosaic of forest,
thickets, and openings. Areas of lupine support the endangered Karner blue butterfly. Scenic
islands of trees and shrubs set off the grasslands and contribute to beautiful natural scenic
vistas down to the lake and bay. Richard and Sarah Wilke shared that they were “delighted to
partner with NCCT to permanently protect this scenic and ecologically significant area so it can
be enjoyed by future generations of both people and wildlife”.

At the time of the Wilke easement filing, eight other conservation easements within five miles of
the Wilke conservation easement protected 556 more acres of natural glacial landscape,
including NCCT’s first Portage County easement on 94 acres donated by Lowell and Christine
Klessig. The area surrounding the Wilke conservation easement, better known as the moraines
east of Stevens Point, boasts the highest concentration of property preserved by NCCT. NCCT
has permanently protected 1,077.9 acres in Portage County as a whole.

Since our inception NCCT has been dedicated to protecting the worthy scenic, working lands
and environmental resources for the benefit of the people of central Wisconsin. Conservation
easements are especially important for protecting the agricultural, scenic, and environmental
qualities of our landscape. From our first Portage County easement on 94 acres in 2001 to our
latest easement with Sarah and Richard Wilke, NCCT is grateful to our conservation minded
benefactors and is dedicated to continuing our growth as an active and vital land trust.

Summer Event 2013

Summer EventNorth Central Conservancy Trust held their annual Summer Event on Saturday, August 24, 2013. The day started with a beautiful morning hike on Jack Scholz’s property in Wausau. In the summer of 2008, Jack contacted NCCT and started the process to protect 68 acres of his property originally purchased   by his grandfather. The focal point of the property is the forest of large white pine and hemlock along the Prahl Creek ravine. There are reputed to be close to 100 trees approaching 3 feet in diameter. In March of 2009, Jack signed a conservation easement with NCCT, forever preserving a portion of the Prahl Creek ravine for the enjoyment of generations to come. Conservation easements like the Scholz easement helps protect in perpetuity quality habitats, species diversity, watersheds, and beautiful places with inspiring histories. About 18 attendees were able to join us for the hike.

Following the Scholz hike, a potluck and presentation were held at the nearby Dells of Eau Claire Park. Plenty of good food and conversation were on hand along the banks of the Eau Claire River, and attendees were able to meet new Executive Director Betsy Kerlin. Kerry Brimmer, long-time NCCT Properties Committee, Stewardship Committee, and Board member, was presented with the Distinguished Service Award. Kerry has volunteered for NCCT over the past 14 years, and was a volunteer when NCCT signed their first easement, the Mumford easement, which is located just upstream from the Dells of Eau Claire Park. Kerry has also been the driving force behind the management of many of our green properties, including the 260-acre Starpoint property in Adams County. Kerry shared that he felt honored to be included amongst the folks who have received the award in the past, including Bob Freckmann and David Hillier. He also shared that he has met many great friends through the organization. Thank you, Kerry, for your many years of service!

Annual Meeting 2013

The North Central Conservancy Trust held their Annual Meeting on October 15, 2013 at The Hills Restaurant at Greenwood Hills Country Club in Wausau. The Annual
Meeting is held once a year to celebrate the successes of the organization, rally support for land
preservation in central Wisconsin and to educate attendees about the importance of land
preservation. NCCT had a lot to celebrate; including over 3,000 acres preserved in central
Wisconsin.

The evening started with a social hour, followed by dinner and presentations by Alan
Haney, Betsy Kerlin, and award-winning writer and fifth-generation Portage County farmer,
Justin Isherwood. New to this year’s Annual Meeting was a silent auction fundraiser
containing items from area vendors and artists. Thank you to our membership and supporters for a successful event!

 

 

Easement Tax Incentives

Tax IncentiveThere are important developments occurring at the federal level regarding conservation
easement tax deductions.

Read the full story here.

Henry Greene Award-John Shillinglaw

ShillinglawCongratulations to North Central Conservancy Trust member and easement donor John
Shillinglaw who recently received the Henry Greene Award from the University of
Wisconsin Friends of the Arboretum for his innovative approaches in restoration!

Read the full story here

John shared that working with NCCT has been an important factor in his ongoing work in
restoration. Further he stated “knowing that the property has protection in perpetuity has
helped motivate many of my efforts.”

How much will an easement cost?

Adams County easement2.fwThe short answer is, “probably nothing.” The reason is that if you have a qualified conservation easement that NCCT will accept, then you probably can claim all expenses and contributions relating to the easement against your gross income used to determine federal and state taxes. Secondly, in the previous three segments, we describe potential tax savings resulting from reduced property value. It is not unusual for property in Central Wisconsin to be revalued at $30,000-40,000 less as a result of an easement, depending on the location and size of the property. (See “Tax Benefits” in the Land Conservation Options.) You will want to check with your attorney or tax advisor, but in most cases, a property owner ends up saving money with an easement. That said, there are up-front costs in addition to the $500 you gave to NCCT to initiate work on your easement. At closing, you will be asked to pay all attorney and filing costs incurred by NCCT, amounting to $1200 on average. You will also be asked to make a donation to NCCT’s easement protection and stewardship endowment. The amount you donate is up to you, but we suggest a minimum of $5000, and if your easement has greater risks or is more difficult to monitor, our guidelines suggest up to $10,000 donation. Remember that all costs and donations can be claimed when you calculate your taxes.

Can granting an easement reduce an owner’s property tax?

Property tax assessment usually is based on the property’s market value, which reflects the property’s development potential. If a conservation easement reduces the development potential of the property, it may reduce the level of assessment, and the amount of the owner’s property taxes. The actual amount of reduction, if any, depends on many factors. State law, local officials, and assessors influence or determine the decision regarding property tax relief to easement grantors.

How can granting an easement reduce a property owner’s estate tax?

Many heirs to large tracts of open space—agricultural land in particular—face monumental estate taxes, or capital gains taxes. Even if the heirs wish to keep their property in the existing condition, the federal estate tax is levied not on the value of the property for its existing use, but on its fair market value, usually the amount a developer or speculator would pay. The resulting estate tax can be so high that the heirs must sell the property to pay the taxes.

A conservation easement, however, nearly always reduces property value. If the property owner has restricted the property by a perpetual conservation easement before his or her death, the property must be valued in the estate at its restricted value. To the extent that the restricted value is lower, the value of the estate will be less, and the estate will thus be subject to a lower estate tax. (Note that if the property owner donates the easement during his or her lifetime, he or she may also realize income-tax savings.)

Even if a property owner does not want to restrict the property during his or her lifetime, the owner can still specify in his/her will that a charitable gift of a conservation easement be made to a qualifying organization upon the owner’s death. Assuming that the easement is properly structured, the value of the easement gift will be deducted from the estate, reducing the value on which estate taxes are levied. Again, a lower tax results.

How can donating an easement reduce a property owner’s income taxes?

Portage County easement2.fwThe donation of a conservation easement usually is a tax-deductible charitable gift, provided that the easement is perpetual, and is donated “exclusively for conservation purposes” to a qualified conservation organization or public agency. Internal Revenue Code Section 170(h) generally defines “conservation purposes” to include the following: the preservation of land areas for outdoor recreation by, or the education of, the general public, and the protection of relatively natural habitats of fish, wildlife, or plants, or similar ecosystems, the preservation of open space—including farmland and forest land—for scenic enjoyment and pursuant to an adopted governmental conservation policy.

To determine the value of the easement donation, the property is appraised both at its fair market value without the easement restrictions, and at its fair market value with easement restrictions. The appraisal must be done by a certified appraiser who meets IRS requirements. The difference between the two appraised values is the easement value. Detailed federal regulations govern these appraisals.

As an example: A property has an appraised fair market value of $100,000. Mrs. Price, the landowner, donates a conservation easement to a local land trust. The easement restrictions reduce the property’s appraised market value to $64,000. Thus, the value of her gift of the easement is $36,000. Assuming the easement meets the conservation purposes test, Mrs. Price—like any donor of property—is eligible to deduct an amount equal to 30 percent of her adjusted gross income each year for a number of years [check tax code as the specifics are subject to change], or until the value of the gift has been used up. If Mrs. Price has an annual adjusted gross income of $60,000, she can deduct $18,000 a year (30% x $60,000) until she has used up the $36,000 value. In this case, she will use up the gift in two years (2 x $18,000=$36,000), if her income does not change. Easement donors may qualify for greater savings, especially when state income-tax deductions are applicable. Potential donors should seek legal and tax counsel.

How long does an easement last?

An easement usually is written so that it lasts forever. This is known as a perpetual easement. Where state law allows, an easement may be written for a specified period of years; this is known as a term easement. Only gifts of perpetual easement, however, can qualify a donor for income- and estate-tax benefits. Most land trusts accept only perpetual easements.

An easement runs with the land—that is, the original owner and all subsequent owners are bound by the restrictions of the easement. The easement is recorded at the county or town records office, so that all future owners and lenders will learn about the restrictions when they obtain title reports.

Must an easement allow public access?

Landowners who grant conservation easements make their own choice about whether to open their property to the public. Some landowners convey certain public-access rights, such as allowing fishing or hiking in specified locations, or permitting guided tours. Others may elect to keep their property closed. Some types of easements require access. For example, if the easement is given for recreation or educational purposes, public access is required. For scenic easements, at least some of the property must be visible to the public, but physical access is not necessary. Access generally is not required for easements that protect wildlife or plant habitats, or agricultural lands.

What are the grantee’s responsibilities?

The grantee organization, or land trust, is responsible for enforcing the restrictions that the easement document spells out. To do this, the grantee monitors the property on a regular basis, typically once a year. Grantee representatives visit the restricted property, usually accompanied by the owner. They determine whether the property remains in the condition prescribed by the easement, and documented at the time of the grant. The grantee maintains written records of the monitoring visits. The visits also serve to keep the grantee and the property owner in touch.

If a monitoring visit reveals that the easement has been violated, the grantee has the legal right to require the owner to correct the violation and restore the property to its condition prior to the violation.

How restrictive is an easement?

An easement restricts development or use to the degree that the owner and land trust deems appropriate to protect the significant values of that particular property. Sometimes, this totally prohibits development. Sometimes it only limits it.

If the goal is to preserve a pristine natural area, for example, an easement may prohibit subdivision and all construction, as well as activities that would alter the land’s present natural condition. If the goal is to protect agricultural land, an easement may only restrict subdivision and development while allowing for structures and activities necessary for and compatible with the agricultural operation. Even the most restrictive easements usually permit landowners to continue all ownership priviledges consistent with restrictions.

Who can grant an easement? To whom may the property owner grant an easement?

Marathon County easement.fwIf the property belongs to more than one person, all owners must consent to granting an easement. If the property is mortgaged, the owner must obtain an agreement from the lender to subordinate its interest to those of the easement holder, so that the easement cannot be extinguished in the event of foreclosure.

If an easement donor wishes to claim tax benefits for the gift, he or she must donate it, or sell it for less than fair market value to a public agency or to a conservation organization that qualifies as a public charity under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3). Most land trusts and government agencies meet this criterion. An organization that accepts the donation of an easement will typically ask the owner to make a contribution toward the cost of monitoring and protecting the easement, or will establish a stewardship fund from other sources.

What kind of property can be protected by an easement?

Any property with significant conservation values can be protected by a conservation easement. This includes forests, wetlands, scenic areas, historic areas, and mixed-use land that includes agriculture and combinations of other habitat. Land conservationists will evaluate the distinctive features of your property. You and the land trust will then determine which resource values merit protection through restrictions identified in the easement. Any property with significant conservation or open-space value may be the subject of an easement.

Why grant a conservation easement?

Portage County easement.fwPeople grant conservation easements to protect their land from development or certain types of use while retaining ownership. By granting an easement in perpetuity, the owner can be assured that resource values will be protected forever, no matter who assumes ownership of the property. Because easements restrict management or development options, they usually reduce the market value of property. This loss of value, at least with conservation easements, may be claimed as a tax benefit because it is the public that gains from the protection of conservation, scenic or historic values.