Q: What is Whatcom Land Trust?

A: Whatcom Land Trust is a nonprofit organization. We work with local landowners to help protect the natural values and resources of their property. We use a variety of flexible tools to meet a landowner’s goals.

Q: How is Whatcom Land Trust making a difference in the community?

A: Since 1984, Whatcom Land Trust has preserved over 20,000 acres of land in every corner in the county. Through many transactions “easements, multi-agency collaborations, grant-based acquisitions, and property donations“ WLT has helped to preserve Whatcom County’s most beautiful and sensitive lands.

Q: Is  WLT a government agency?

A: No, Whatcom Land Trust is a board-governed nonprofit organization. WLT is recognized as an accredited, community-based land trust with a significant record of land conservation. Our collaborative efforts have been identified both regionally and on the national level as prime examples of how to achieve significant conservation. We work only through voluntary conservation, not governmental regulations, to help protect our natural resources. We rely on private contributions, not your tax dollars, to support our operation.

Q: Who runs Whatcom Land Trust, and how?

A: Whatcom Land Trust is led by an Executive Director, who oversees the work of a small staff team. The Executive Director is guided by a 11-member volunteer board of directors who share a love of Whatcom County and a strong ethic of public service. WLT also benefits from the contributions of a number of community members who lend their professional expertise to various committees.

Q: What is a conservation easement?

A: A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement between a property owner and a land trust or other conservation organization, in which the land owner donates to the land trust specific property rights in exchange for the land trust’s promise to protect the conservation values of the property forever. The land owner retains ownership of the land with the ability to sell it or pass it on to heirs, and may receive an income tax benefit from the easement donation.

Q: How does a conservation easement work?

A: Each easement is unique to the site and the owner’s personal wishes. A single feature can be preserved, specific development can be limited or the entire landscape may be conserved. For example, one might give up the right to build additional residences while retaining the right to grow crops. Future owners will be bound by the terms of the easement. The land trust is responsible for ensuring that the terms of the easement are honored.

Q: What kind of property qualifies for a conservation easement?

A: Any property with conservation value can be protected by an easement. This includes forests, wetlands, farms, wildlife habitat, beaches, scenic areas, recreational land, historic areas and property with educational, scientific, or cultural value. WLT carefully assesses the easements it is offered, to ensure that the conservation values outweigh the stewardship demands.

Q: Does a conservation easement allow public access?

A: Land owners who grant easements are not required to open their property to the public. Some landowners choose to give the public limited access rights for activities such as fishing or hiking.  WLT does not make these decisions.

Q: How long does a conservation easement last?

A: A conservation easement lasts in perpetuity. Title to the land may change, but the easement remains.

Q: Are there any tax benefits to a conservation easement?

A: When a landowner donates an easement, the IRS considers the donation a charitable gift, and this may reduce one’s federal taxes. Additionally, property taxes may be reduced depending on how the value of the land is altered by the donation.