Conservation Easement – Landowner, Alan Calfee

Alan Calfee

OVERVIEW OF THE LAND

123 acres of predominantly forested land including four separate lots, three of them with single family residences, in Dorset, VT.

TOOLS YOU CAN USE

In 1949, Gertrude Davis bought the land that was going to be the anchor of her family’s life for the next 60 years. As time went by, she wanted her sons, Alan Calfee and his two brothers, to get involved in the maintenance of the land and eventually to take over the land ownership. When in 1989 she consulted her attorney, she realized that the increase in her property value was going to make the tax burden of her passing too great for her children to bear and that the land would have to be sold. The transfer of Gertrude’s assets was going to require some planning.

The family engaged in open discussions about what to do with their land and determined common goals, the main one being to protect their land from development and fragmentation. As a result, in 1998, Gertrude donated a conservation easement over the forested part of her land (100 acres) to the New England Forestry Foundation.

Although the family had consulted several other land trusts, the NEFF was the one that best fit the family’s criteria for their land. Once the conservation easement was established, the family set up a limited partnership to own the land, Elephant Hill Family Limited Partnership, and Gertrude progressively transferred her interests in the land to her sons through the partnership. The land is enrolled in the Current Use Program to reduce the tax burden of ownership. Alan is now the general partner and takes care of daily management of the property. The structure of the partnership means that annual gifts of interests in the land are paid to each partner of the limited partnership. He is grateful for his mother’s early planning.

Lessons Learned

  • Start planning early – when you first think about it. Avoid putting off planning if your land is important to you. Unexpected circumstances can arise and derail the best of intentions.
  • Involve the entire family in the process from the start. If there are challenging family dynamics, they should be addressed up front.
  • Involve your forester, an estate planning-savvy lawyer, and accountant from the beginning. A good team of advisors will help you reach the best solution.
  • Consider factors like financial/tax implications, personal philosophies about the land, and conservation goals separately at first. Then, as you proceed, work to ensure you have reached an optimum solution for all categories.

Related Tools

Related Case Studies

Resources

“Landowner Case Studies,” Community Strategies for Vermont’s Forests and Wildlife: A Guide for Local Action. Chapter 8, p. 28-30.

“Conservation Easements,” Community Strategies for Vermont’s Forests and Wildlife: A Guide for Local Action. Chapter 8, p. 25.

List of Conservation Organizations. List includes land trusts and was compiled by the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board.

Please Note: Language used in this summary was adapted from Community Strategies for Vermont’s Forests and Wildlife: A Guide for Local Action, Chapter 8, p. 28-29.