10. Land Protection Strategies



10.1 Land Protection Mechanisms

This section describes various techniques by which land protection objectives can be accomplished and illustrates how those techniques have been applied. Also provided are examples of projects in Long Island's Central Pine Barrens or elsewhere on eastern Long Island which illustrate the implementation of these strategies.

It should be noted that the public and private sectors in eastern Long Island have, for many years, been leaders in the land protection and land conservation field and there is a tradition of success and innovation upon which to draw for the Central Pine Barrens protection effort.

Four general land protection actions are listed in the text: voluntary landowner actions; direct acquisition of interests in land; tax incentives for conservation; and land use planning and regulatory techniques. At the end of this section, is a discussion of the major challenge to the implementation of any land protection plan, namely, funding such a plan and discerning potential funding sources. Appendix 6-1 contains a chart summarizing options for conservation and a glossary of terms.
 

10.2 Land Protection Actions

Land protection actions are summarized in the text that follows. A list of each of these actions with their associated strengths, limitations and requirements for implementation is included in Appendix 6-2.

10.2.1 Voluntary Actions

There are two types of voluntary landowner actions. These actions include (1) landowner contact and education (2) voluntary agreements. Landowner contact and education is relatively straight forward with information provided to landowners. Voluntary agreements include formal agreements with the landowners.

10.2.2 Direct Acquisition Mechanisms

There are nine mechanisms for direct acquisition of interest in land:

1. The right of first refusal gives a conservation group the right to match bona fide offers from a third party to purchase the land.
2. Leases, licenses and management agreements give the conservation group the right to manage the land.
3. Conservation easement is an agreement by which the landowner conveys a promise to a conservation group to use (or to refrain from using) his/her land in ways which are consistent with conservation objectives.
4. Deed restrictions and reverter clauses subject the property to use restrictions which, if violated, could allow property to revert to another party.
5. Acquisition of undivided interests is a mechanism by which the landowner conveys a percentage interest in the property to a conservation organization.
6. Acquisition of remainder interests subject to restricted life estates is the method by which property is transferred to a conservation group after the donor's lifetime.
7. Acquisition of partial interests such as water, timber, mineral, grazing rights and access rights is an acquisition of specific, limited property rights.
8. Fee acquisition is the straight forward acquisition of all property rights of a specific parcel of land.
9. Dedication of property is when land rights are conveyed legally to an established nature preserve system.

10.2.3 Tax Incentives for Conservation

Tax incentives for conservation are broken into four categories: income tax deductions, estate tax deductions, tax deferral strategies, and real property tax incentives.

Income tax deductions include: gifts or donations of money or fee title of land (land given to a charitable organizations qualify for charitable contribution tax deduction equal to the property's fair market value); bargain sales whereby land is sold to a charity at below fair market value, with the difference qualifying as a charitable deduction to improve net financial return from the sale; and charitable trusts whereby land is given to a trust which sells the property for conservation and the proceeds are used to provide income to the donor.

A bequest of real or personal property that is given as a gift to a charitable organization results in an estate tax deduction.

Tax deferral strategies include installment sales whereby the sales price is paid by the conservation group over a period of time which allows the seller to defer capital gains taxes until the proceeds are received; like-kind exchanges where the conservation group "trades" property to the seller for land to be acquired which allows the seller to defer taxes until the replacement property is sold; and sale under implied threat of condemnations which is the sale of property to a government agency or conservation group which allows the seller to defer tax until the replacement property is sold.

Real property taxes might be decreased through preferential assessment in return for keeping land open and undeveloped or used for farm or forest purposes.

10.2.4 Land Use and Regulatory Techniques

Land use planning and regulatory techniques are divided into mechanisms that control the location of development, control the provision and timing of infrastructure, control the compatibility of development or a combination of these techniques.

The location and control of development can be implemented by enacting specific zoning requirements and subdivision ordinances which provide for and/or protect large lots, open space, agriculture, flood plains and wetlands. Urban growth boundaries can be implemented which designate areas of intense development integrated with preservation areas. Overlay resource protection districts can be enacted whereby the underlying zoning remains the same but resources that require special protection such as wetlands, flood plains and critical habitats are identified.

The development of infrastructure can be controlled to allow growth and development to proceed at a planned pace. Infrastructure growth can be controlled with a well planned capital improvements program and/or an adequate public facilities ordinance. Growth management programs provide the timing for municipal planning objectives and development proposals are evaluated against this plan. The compatibility of development can be controlled with performance zoning, cluster zoning and Planned Unit Developments (PUD's). Other land use protection mechanisms combine techniques. These combination mechanisms include transfers of development rights (TDRs) and the assessment of impact and mitigation fees.

10.2.5 Financing Land Acquisition

Especially in eastern Long Island where the cost per acre of land is probably as high as it is anywhere in the continental United States, finding the money for land acquisition is a particular challenge, often involving the need to mix and match various sources of funds. Since traditional land acquisition will continue to be a major focus of the Central Pine Barrens protection effort, it will be a very capital intensive project. Clearly, the magnitude of the land to be acquired and the value of those lands will require continued financial support from all levels of government, since it is only from the public sector that such extensive resources could be provided. Private resources are likely to be used to fund strategic acquisitions and as leverage to secure public funds.
 

10.3 Land Acquisitions Programs of New York State and Suffolk County

10.3.1 New York State

The 1995 fiscal year budget for New York State includes $10 million for Core Preservation Area acquisitions. In each of the calendar years 1997 through 1999, an additional 2 million dollars will be available for further acquisitions. This funding represents the proceeds from a natural resources damages settlement relating to a major oil spill on Long Island, made available from the Natural Resources Damages Account administered by the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, as Trustee.

A number of parcels have been identified and targeted for acquisition with this and future state funding. The set of parcels shown here is neither final nor exhaustive. Other parcels might be considered, and parcels shown here may not be purchased. New York State DEC has also obtained $160,000 from the Intermodal Surface Transportation Enhancement Act (ISTEA) program for acquisitions near Pleasure Drive in the Flanders areas of Southampton.

10.3.2 Suffolk County

One of the most important sources of land acquisition funds has been Suffolk County. In fact, the County has acquired and preserved more acreage than all other preservation efforts combined. Figure 10-1 shows the results of the County's three land acquisition programs (open space, groundwater protection, and farmland preservation) through 1992. Groundwater protection funds in the amount of $10 million have been pledged. In addition, annual appropriations for the open space and farmland programs are still occurring, representing approximately $4 million/year.

Figure 10-1: Land Acquisitions in Suffolk County by Cumulative Acres & Cumulative Expenditures, 1986-1992
(Please see the printed version of the Plan for this illustration.)