Wild & Scenic Mokelumne Update

Foothill Focus Newsletter
photo of Mokelumne River
North Fork Mokelumne River below Salt Springs Dam
Foothill Focus Summer 1998
Amador Land Trust - Protecting Local Lands
Since 1990, the Amador Land Trust has worked to protect local parcels from development, working with farmers, ranchers, and other landowners to help preserve their land in perpetuity. ALT, a nonprofit corporation, accepts donations of conservation easements from property owners. A donation to ALT is a tax-deductible contribution which can reduce the value of land for property tax and estate tax purposes.

Conservation easements

What is a conservation easement? As described by Cristi Bozora, in the February 1998 issue of Sierra News, the newsletter of the Sierra Nevada Alliance, a conservation easement is, "a voluntary agreement between a landowner and a local government body or qualified nonprofit organization that preserves the natural resource values of the land by limiting or eliminating development on it.

"While the landowner still owns the property, the easement-holder separately holds the development rights, which it agrees never to exercise. The property continues to be used as before, but the natural resources that make the property valuable for conservation are preserved forever."

"Think of private property rights as a 'bundle of sticks,'" Bozora says, "With each stick representing a different landowner right, such as use, sale, lease, or future development. By mutual agreement, different 'sticks' can be held separately by different entities. For example, a rancher can still own the land, live on it, run cattle on it and continue other historic uses -but he or she can choose to give up the right to subdivide and/or develop the land in exchange for financial or other compensation.

"By having given up the right of development, the land owner in essence devalues that property, at least in the eyes of the government," resulting in potential reductions in property and estate taxes (see box).

ALT expanding local lands under easement

In the last six years, ALT has placed conservation easements on eight landholdings (more than 1,600 acres) in Amador, Calaveras, and El Dorado counties. Four easements are pending. While conditions for the easements vary, all preclude intense future development of the land. ALT is gaining recognition as a key player in the effort to protect lands in the Sierra foothills and has received several referrals from The Nature Conservancy.

This winter the Packard Foundation announced an initiative to protect key lands in California, including the Sierra. A generous $175 million will be spent acquiring lands and easements. We're hopeful that ALT will be among the groups working with the California Environmental Trust in acquiring land and conservation easements in the Sierra foothills.

If you are interested in the work of the ALT, or would like to talk to them about a conservation easement on your own land, please call Jane Bardin at 296-5739 or 223-1225, or Susan Roudebush at 754-4455 or 728-3333.

THE FOOTHILL CONSERVANCY  |  35 Court Street, Suite 1   Jackson, CA  95642  |  209-223-3508