Do you have any clients that have spoken with you about leaving a lasting legacy? Have they ever thought about preserving their land for their future generations to enjoy? Do they enjoy birding or hiking and want to ensure such places will be there forever? Did you know that the State of Delaware has a program which dedicates such environmentally valuable land as a private nature preserve through a conservation easement with permanent protections on future use?
Through a conservation easement, your client could reap financial benefits in the form of tax benefits, have the opportunity to name the nature preserve, know that they played a central part in preserving Delaware’s ecological footprint in perpetuity for the benefit of present and future generations.
Most people are familiar with the Delaware Open Space Council that has funds (in most years) to acquire land for preservation through purchase. However, the Delaware Natural Areas Advisory Council (“DNAAC”), which is coming up on its 40th anniversary, serves as a sister and predecessor Council that identifies and designates high quality areas of biological significance. DNAAC identifies natural areas throughout the State with the intention to then dedicate such areas as State nature preserves.
The Natural Area Registry is a roadmap for preservation in Delaware. The DNAAC advises the DNREC Secretary on lands to be preserved through the Natural Areas Preservation System law. Examples of natural area could include vernal ponds with salamander habitat or old growth upland forest. In particular, lands are sought to be preserved that exhibit value for the use and purpose as habitat for flora and fauna, places of natural interest and beauty, scientific research (including ecology, taxonomy, genetics, forestry, pharmacology, agriculture, soil science, geology, conservation, archaeology and other subjects), and education.
Public and private lands can be dedicated as State Nature Preserves. Should a private landowner want to dedicate their land or a portion thereof, it will remain private land and such a dedication does not permit public entry.
In these tight budget times, Delaware has insufficient state tax revenue to fund open space land purchases for environmental preservation. Fortunately Delaware has an alternative program, whereby the land owner who wants to create a legacy can accomplish land preservation using restrictive covenants voluntarily added to his or her private land which the DNAAC can advise the Secretary to designate as a nature preserve in perpetuity.
Should you wish to recommend a client for this program your client may contact Eileen Butler in the DNREC Office of Nature Preserves. Note that the land to be preserved does not need to be the entire parcel but may be a portion of the land, for example an acre not being used on a corner of the property. Should your client’s property be approved as a nature preserve, press releases could announce your client’s name to be associated with the land that it is setting aside for conservation.
Delaware has a diverse landscape with many natural places worthy of protecting. Identifying landowners with property that could benefit the environment while helping landowners achieve favorable tax results would create a benefit for all.
About the author
John Legaré Williams, Esquire practices business law through The Williams Law Firm, P.A. (www.TrustWilliams.com). He is also President of Agents and Corporations, Inc. (www.IncNow.com), a family owned and operated incorporation service that provides filing and registered agent services in Delaware to business owners from around the world. Nationally, Mr. Williams is a frequent speaker nationally on the topic of Delaware LLCs and in particular the Delaware Series LLC, the most cutting-edge entity on the market.