Protect Your Land

Land Conservation

Purchase of Development Rights

What is Purchase of Development Rights?
Purchase of Development Rights, also known as PDR or purchasing a conservation easement, pays a landowner to keep their land open for agricultural use and protect it from development.
How is the value of non-farm development rights established?

The value of an easement is determined through an appraisal process, called the “before and after” process, which is different than a farm appraisal. This appraisal determines what the full market value is for the land before it is conserved and then determines a second value for the land after it would be conserved with the conservation easement. The difference between the two values is the value of the development rights (or the value of the conservation easement). Please refer to our Fact Sheet on Agricultural Conservation Easements and Appraisals for more information.

How does the process work?

We currently partner with local municipalities and landowners who apply for farmland protection grant funding for the New York State Department of Agriculture. This program is called the Purchase of Development Rights (PDR). If a farm is selected for protection with the NYS farmland protection program it will pay for up to 87.5% of the non-agricultural development rights value. The municipality may contribute funding towards the transaction costs. Other counties provide in-kind services, such as computerized mapping.

NYALT works with the sponsoring municipality and landowners who have been selected for a NYS farmland protection grant (PDR) to help them with the conservation land planning, related documents, and materials necessary to meet state and federal guidelines for farmland conservation projects. As part of this process, NYALT agrees to uphold the conservation agreement (called a conservation easement) into the future.

Where does funding come from?

While funding can come from a combination of State and Federal grants or Private donations, typically NYALT works with the NYS Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program funds. These are competitive farmland protection grants available from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. These grants provide for up to 87.5% of the value of the development rights and associated transaction costs. Each year, New York State’s legislature allocates funds for this grant program from the Environmental Protection Fund, but demand from the farm community is high – typically there are twice as many applicants as there is funding allocated each year.

Complete our landowner information sheet and return it to our address. Upon receipt staff will schedule a follow up with you or feel free to call or e-mail NYALT at any time with questions.

Donating a Conservation Easement

By donating a conservation easement, you become a community leader, establishing a gift that keeps giving to future generations. Conserving your land is one of the greatest legacy actions you can take. Good farm and forest land will become even more important as we work to strengthen our local food supply and conserve our water and natural resources. You can make a real difference with the gift of an agricultural conservation easement. Donating a conservation easement can help families with estate planning and can provide state and federal income tax deductions and state property tax credits.

For more information, please complete the Landowner Information Sheet and return it to NYALT or contact Brandy Colebrook at or 315-203-6077.

What is involved in donating a conservation easement?

Site Visit
If your project meets the farmland protection goals of NYALT, you will be contacted to arrange an initial site visit and meeting with NYALT staff.
Meet With Staff
The purpose of the initial meeting will be to begin work on a conceptual site plan map and to review NYALT’s model conservation easement. This will help you to understand the general operation of an easement, and how it will protect your property in the future. When complete, Staff will bring your conceptual site plan map to the NYALT board for review and preliminary approval.
Review of Title Documents and Public Records
Once approved, staff will order a title search. This consists of continuing or preparing an abstract of title for the property to determine the status of title and existence of encumbrances. Copies of any existing surveys, maps, or abstracts of title will save time and money in this review.
Draft the Conservation Easement
With the information gathered from meetings and the site plan map, NYALT staff will draft an agricultural conservation easement tailored to your property and its conservation plan. This document will be sent to you for your review.
Landowner Review
NYALT advises that you work with an attorney experienced in easements to review your proposed conservation easement. It is also helpful to meet with your financial adviser to determine how the donation of an agricultural easement can benefit your financial plans, estate planning, etc.
Prepare Final Documents
NYALT staff will work with you to adjust and finalize your conservation easement. We will also develop a Baseline Documentation Report (“Baseline”) and assist you in obtaining any other documents needed to clear title issues or to otherwise complete the transaction. The Baseline (described more fully below) is required to comply with Internal Revenue Code requirements and insure compliance with national land trust standards and practices.
Prepare the Baseline
The Baseline consists of maps and other information related to your project. It provides a review of the past and current uses of the property, soil and topographical maps, aerial photographs, and a description of monitoring locations and corresponding photos. The Baseline will be the basis for future monitoring of the property and any necessary action in the future to assure that the conservation values are maintained.
Complete the Project
Once you have agreed to the Conservation Easement and related Baseline Documentation, NYALT will schedule a project closing. The easement and supporting documents will be signed and notarized by you and NYALT. NYALT will then file the conservation easement with your County Clerk’s office. A copy of the recorded Conservation Easement must also be provided to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Apply for State and Federal Income Tax Deductions
It will be your responsibility to complete the necessary paperwork to apply for possible state and federal income tax benefits. If you wish to apply for a federal tax deduction and the value of your donation is over $5000, you will need to obtain an appraisal that meets the Internal Revenue Code’s Standards.
Project Time Frame
A donated conservation easement project generally takes eight months to a year to complete.
Transaction Costs
When you begin the project, NYALT will work with you to estimate what the costs are likely to be incurred to complete the project. Among these costs are: title continuations, survey expenses, baseline report preparation, recording fees and a stewardship contribution. The stewardship contribution is needed to pay for future monitoring and enforcement expenses and for insuring that NYALT continues to have the capacity to assist you and future owners and to uphold its long-­‐term responsibility as the holder of the easement.
Note on Costs: If your project moves forward, we will work with you to identify grant funding or other sources of funds for donating a conservation easement.

Tax Incentives

If a conservation easement is voluntarily donated to a land trust, and it meets the federal requirements for a charitable gift, it may qualify as a charitable tax deduction on the donor’s federal income tax return. The donor should discuss this with their tax adviser and attorney prior to donating the conservation easement. The tax benefits may include:
A donor can take a maximum deduction of 50% of their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) in any year.
Qualified farmers and ranchers may be able to deduct up to 100% of their AGI.
The carry-over period for a donor to take a tax deduction for a conservation easement is 15 years.

If landowners donate a conservation easement in full or as a bargain sale and plan to utilize a federal tax deduction, they must get a certified appraisal documenting the value of the conservation easement, within the same tax year of, but no more than 60 days prior to the donation. There may also be estate tax benefits associated with the conservation easement as well.

The New York State Tax Credit gives landowners whose land is restricted by a donated or partially donated conservation easement an annual refund of 25% of the property taxes paid on that land, exclusive of structures and improvements, up to $5,000 per year. Your local municipality will not experience a reduction in tax revenue because it is a New York State income tax credit.