Who are you?
Green Spaces Alliance is a non-profit organization that includes business people, landowners, professionals, community activists, scientists, and concerned citizens. We ally with other non-profits, governmental entities, churches, neighborhood associations, community centers, and educational institutions from grade schools through colleges.
What is your goal?
Our goal is to preserve more green spaces, which include unique physical and cultural landmarks of our region.
Are you a governmental agency?
No. We are a non-profit land trust whose board and members are from our community. Land trusts are independent, entrepreneurial organizations that work with landowners who are interested in protecting open space. Land trusts often work cooperatively with governmental agencies on shared goals.
Arenâ€™t you just duplicating what national organizations do?
Not at all. National organizations focus on preserving large swaths of land for a particular purpose, such as habitat preservation. Our goals are more specific. We create small oases of green in the midst of the city by preserving small parcels of land and facilitating community gardens. We also preserve large parcels for scenic views, open space, passive recreation, historic and cultural preservation, and protection of the Edwards Aquifer.
What are the advantages of working with you?
We are very closely tied to the communities in which we operate. Moreover, as a land trust, our non-profit tax status brings folks a variety of tax benefits. Donations of land, conservation easements, or money may qualify you for income, estate, or gift tax savings. Moreover, because we are a private organization, we can be more nimble, flexible, and creative than public agencies and can act more quickly in saving land.
How sustainable are you?
Our organization was formed in 1998. Over the course our existence, we have grown in accomplishment and financial strength. Our support derives from individual donors, members, foundations, and work that we do with governmental organizations that dovetail with our mission. All of our efforts are adequately funded before we undertake them.
What have you done before?
What will you do with my money?
Why should I give to you?
The adage â€œThink Globally, Act Locallyâ€ applies here. This is where you live, where you raise your family, and where you work. By preserving cultural and natural resources here, you are acting to maintain clear air, clean water, and the quality of life for you and your family.
Whatâ€™s in it for me?
Aside from maintaining a healthy and sustainable quality of life for you and your family, you will be saving the additional cost needed to repair our infrastructure. American Forests calculated that, in San Antonio alone, the benefit of tree cover is a staggering $1 billion dollars in storm water management value, $22 million in air pollution removal value, and further value for tons of carbon stored.
Whatâ€™s an easement?
Conservation easements are voluntary agreements between a landowner and a qualified entity like us. A landowner gives up certain rights to develop his or her land, and, if appropriate under the IRS code and regulations, receives a charitable deduction for the gift. In some instances, such as when the government is trying to protect water under the land, sensitive habitat, or some other value, the landowners receives funds in exchange for the rights being removed from the property.
Why should I grant a conservation easement to a land trust?
If it you value the unique natural characteristics of the land you own and want to prevent future development, then conservation easements are for you. Land trusts â€“ such as Green Spaces Alliance â€“ have the expertise and experience to work with landowners and ensure that their land will remain as permanent open space. Furthermore, granting an easement to a conservation organization that qualifies under the Internal Revenue Code as a â€œpublic charityâ€ â€“ which includes most land trusts â€“ can yield income and estate tax savings. In fact, there are currently increased tax incentives available for qualified landowners, but these benefits may not last forever.
What steps do I take to write a conservation easement?
First, contact a land trust in your community to become acquainted with the organization and the services it can provide. Explore with them the conservation values you want to protect on the land. Discuss with the land trust what you want to accomplish and what development rights you may want to retain. For example, you may already have one home on your property and want to preserve the right to build another home. That provision is one that must be specifically written into an easement agreement. Always consult with other family members regarding an easement, and remember that you should consult with your own attorney or financial adviser regarding such a substantial decision.
How can a conservation easement be tailored to my needs and desires?
An easement restricts development to the degree that is necessary to protect the significant conservation values of that particular property. You still own the property. You can farm it, ranch it, use it as you had, so long as you donâ€™t disturb or destroy its conservation values. Landowners and land trusts, working together, can write conservation easements that reflect both the landownerâ€™s desires and the need to protect conservation values.
Are you going to tell me what to do with my land?
Never. When the easement is a charitable gift, the landowner determines what it is that is to be preserved. Working with experts, we help the landowner accomplish his goal. When the easement is purchased for a particular purpose, the landowner agrees to actions that will make sure that the purpose is accomplished. It is still a voluntary agreement.
How much will that cost me?
You will be giving up development rights on your property so that it canâ€™t be exploited in a way that destroys its value for wildlife habitat, open space, passive recreation, scenic views, or some other conservation purpose. You can still use the land for farm, ranch, recreation, and other purposes, sell it, or leave it to heirs. We monitor the condition of the property at least annually, maintain landowner relations and relationships with neighbors, respond to complaints about the property, and, if necessary, enforce the easement in a court of law.
How does this work?
After the terms of the conservation easement are agreed to, we have the obligation to make sure that the land is protected forever, and the landowner has the obligation to use the property in the ways described in the easement.
How long does a conservation easement last?
Most easements â€œrun with the land,â€ binding the original owner and all subsequent owners to the easement’s restrictions. Only gifts of perpetual easements can qualify for income and estate tax benefits. 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.
Who will have access to my property?
Green Spaces Alliance would have access to the property to monitor the easement. Members of the public may be excluded, but we encourage landowners to permit use of the property for educational reasons at least twice a year so that successive generations can appreciate its value.