About the Land Trust
We are dedicated to preserving working lands, wildlife habitat, open space and scenic vistas for New Mexico’s future.
Land trusts differ from other conservation or preservation organizations in their direct involvement with land transactions. Land trusts initiate, implement, and monitor land protection devices for individual pieces of property or land areas. A land trust must have the resources and commitment to protect the conservation values of the property in partnership with the landowner.
The most common interest in land held by a land trust is a conservation or historic preservation easement. A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. This kind of easement is a non-possessive interest; the landowner/grantor retains title to the land, and can live there, sell, bequeath, or lease it. Easements are flexible and tailored to the land’s characteristics and the landowner’s needs.
Working with RGALT
RGALT’s goal is to protect New Mexico’s natural resources and rural quality of life for the five New Mexico counties of Bernalillo, Sandoval, Sierra, Socorro and Valencia. RGALT, a community-supported, nonprofit, works with farmers and landowners who live in the Middle Rio Grande Valley and are dedicated to the preservation of working farms, ranches, wildlife habitat and open space.
RGALT was incorporated as the Socorro Agricultural Land Trust (SALT) in 1997. SALT expanded in 2000 and changed its name to the Rio Grande Agricultural Land Trust (RGALT) to include the counties with the fastest population growth in New Mexico: Sandoval, Bernalillo, Valencia, Socorro and Sierra. In 2004 we transacted our first conservation easement on a nine acre property in Socorro. Since then, we have completed easement transactions to protect 5400 acres of riparian habitat and farmland in the Middle Rio Grande.
- Riparian wetlands 80%
- Irrigable Farmland 60%
- Wildlife Habitat 50%
Why a conservation easement?
- Keep the ranch or farm in the family and maintain agricultural production.
- Preserve the land for future generations and wildlife.
- Take stewardship of the natural resources on their land.
- Preserve open space and the communities’ agricultural heritage.
- Reduce estate taxes (and the IRS’s influence over your land!).
- Receive an income tax deduction equal to the appraised value of the development rights.
If a conservation easement is donated, a landowner is allowed to deduct some of the income each year for a total of six years, or until the value of the easement has been used up. To determine the value of the conservation easement donation, the property is appraised both at its fair market value without the easement restrictions and at its fair market value with the easement restrictions. The difference between these two appraised values is the easement value.
When a Conservation Easement is placed on a property, does the landowner …
… still own the land?
- YES! And you can sell it any time at whatever price you can get.
- The easement does not freeze the value of the property.
- The easement goes with the land, not with the landowner.
… have to donate all the development rights on the property?
- NO! The landowner decides what type of restrictions they want on the property, and can choose how much of their property they want to put into a conservation easement.
… have to allow public access?
- NO! The landowner controls access to the property.
Will the easement interfere with the management of my ranch or farm?
- NO! The landowner retains full control over property management.
Is the landowner locked into current agricultural or land management practices?
- NO! The conservation easement does not limit land management practices.
How common are conservation easements?
- Conservation easements are becoming very popular, in part because of their flexibility working with landowners to achieve their goals. As of 2010, nearly 9 million acres in the United States were protected by state and local land trusts through conservation easements.
Do I have to donate the conservation easement in perpetuity (forever)?
- YES! To qualify for a tax deduction, the conservation easement must be perpetual.
Do I still pay my property taxes?
- YES! But the property will be taxed as undeveloped land.
What about water rights?
- Most easements require that water rights remain with the land.