“It seemed that our family had been on this land for thousands of years; that we had sprung from the earth, born of its flesh like a tree or a flower, deep-rooted, not by our feet, but by our hearts.”
― Thea Halo

People connect to the land in many ways. There are many reasons to conserve your land. Most landowners we work with feel a deep and sentimental connection to their land. Whether it has been in the family for generations or has another special meaning, HeartLands Conservancy has many options for conserving your important places. Your choice will depend on your circumstances.

We encourage you to contact our Conservation Manager as you contemplate a possible land gift so we can help you explore your options. Call (618) 566-4451 ext 23 or request a consultation or service.

Conservation Easements

HeartLands Conservancy holds over 30 Conservation Easements in southern Illinois, totaling over 2,700 acres.

A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust, such as HeartLands Conservancy, or another agency, designed to permanently protect the conservation values of a property by defining allowed uses. It allows landowners to continue to own and use their land, and they can also sell it or pass it on to heirs.

Conservation easements offer great flexibility and are tailored to the vision of the landowners. An easement on property containing rare wildlife habitat might prohibit any future development, for example, while an easement on a farm might allow continued farming and the addition of agricultural structures. An easement may apply to all or a portion of the property and does not require public access.

Stewardship of Conservation Easements

HeartLands Conservancy monitors conservation easements every year. Monitoring helps us maintain an accurate record of any changes to the land over time and discuss any concerns or questions with the landowner.

Future owners also will be bound by the easement’s terms. HeartLands Conservancy is responsible for making sure the easement’s terms are followed and is required to take enforcement action if the terms are not.

Financial Benefits

A landowner sometimes sells a conservation easement, but usually, easements are donated. If the donation benefits the public by permanently protecting significant conservation resources and meets other federal tax code requirements, it may qualify as a tax-deductible charitable donation. Easement values vary greatly; in general, the highest easement values result from very restrictive conservation easements on tracts of developable open space under intense development pressure. In some jurisdictions, placing an easement on your property may also result in property tax savings.

Land Donations

HeartLands Conservancy has been incredibly fortunate to receive gifts of properties across southern Illinois. The donor(s) of the land typically provide a cash donation or endowment to help defray the costs of managing the land in perpetuity.

In other cases, HeartLands Conservancy may re-sell donated property and use the proceeds from the sale to further our mission. If the donated land has conservation values, we will conserve it before reselling it. We often continue to farm the donated land, using the income to serve our mission.

Want to donate land, but continue to live on it? Through a gift of land with a reserved life-estate, beneficiaries have the right to use the property during their lifetimes. When the beneficiaries have passed away, control of the property transfers to HeartLands Conservancy.

Land Acquisition

Land that HeartLands Conservancy acquires for conservation is either 1) managed in perpetuity for public benefit or 2) transferred to a public agency or another steward for public use and enjoyment.

HeartLands Conservancy will consider purchasing properties, usually at a bargain sale price below the land’s full value, that are significant ecological, cultural, agricultural, or recreational resources to the community or region. We also consider the desires and needs of the local community before entertaining an acquisition.

Some properties may be more suitable for protection by partner organizations. HeartLands Conservancy often works with groups and public agencies on a variety of land protection options. We are happy to connect you with the most appropriate entity to meet your needs.

Land Management Assistance

Over the past couple of decades, coinciding with society’s effort to “go global,” an unfortunate result has occurred. Plants and animals from Europe, Asia, and other places, have been introduced to our region, which does not have the same pests, diseases, and competition that would usually keep them in check. The result is problems with wildlife, soils, flooding, and erosion.

No longer can we “leave nature to its own.” HeartLands Conservancy encourages landowners to become knowledgeable in identifying and controlling these invasive species. HeartLands Conservancy will be glad to consult with you regarding steps you might take to control invasive species on your property. Many of our volunteer efforts are focused on the removal of invasive species, so if you are interested in learning more about removal techniques, please consider joining us for an upcoming volunteer opportunity.

HeartLands Conservancy can advise private and public landowners on ecological management through the Conservation@Home programs, developing ecological management plans, and in some cases taking on the management of the site for the landowner. Often hiring a contractor is the best option. We can provide recommendations and contract management services to landowners seeking additional help.