With today’s land values, property you own in Santa Barbara County may be one of your largest assets.

Making that land work economically today, and being able to pass it on to your family’s next generation, requires careful planning.

For many landowners, there is a unique set of tools that can help guarantee that your land stays in agricultural production or natural open space, and in your ownership, while you receive some of the appreciated value.

State and Federal tax incentives and public and private grants provide economic alternatives to paying estate tax bills on appreciated land, or selling land for development. Created by federal and state law for use by landowners and land trusts, these tools are designed to protect the important rural, agricultural and wildlife landscapes of communities through fair, negotiated transactions with private landowners.

The Land Trust works with Conservation Easements – negotiated legal agreements that leave land in private ownership, available for agricultural and/or residential use by the owner. Each easement is unique to the property, and the terms are negotiated privately between the owner and the Land Trust. The easement protects identified conservation values of the property – such as productive agriculture, wildlife corridors, scenic views or historic buildings – and generally limits subdivision and development to an agreed upon number of homes.

Conservation easements allow the owner to benefit now from the market value of their land, by giving up rights to subdivide and develop it in exchange for income and estate tax benefits or grant payments. Landowners often use the tax savings or grant payments to settle estates, cash out family or partnership interests, make improvements to their ranch or farm, buy additional land, or a life insurance policy to benefit their heirs.

The Land Trust acquires land and conservation easements by donation (in exchange for tax incentives), or by purchase (using public and private grants and donations). The Land Trust can also help you learn about technical support and grant programs for voluntary improvements to protect or enhance wildlife habitat on your ranch or farm. Our Resources page lists some sources of information.

Occasionally, the Land Trust will buy part of or all of a property from a private owner. This was the case when we purchased:

• Part of the Sedgwick Ranch from the heirs of Duke and Alice Sedgwick and transferred it to the University of California Natural Reserve System.
• The Carpinteria Bluffs bought from a developer and transferred to the City of Carpinteria.
Arroyo Hondo Ranch purchased from the Hollister family, now run by the Land Trust as a natural and historic preserve.
• The 462 acre Hot Springs Canyon in Montecito.

Additionally, the Land Trust purchased the Coronado Butterfly Preserve, and important holdings at Carpinteria Salt Marsh, Point Sal and More Mesa. In these cases, the natural resources and the special opportunities for scientific research, outdoor education and public recreation led us to purchase the land.