Forest Society Tests Innovative New Ways to Fulfill its Mission
Forest Society Tests Innovative New Ways to Fulfill its Mission,
Launches “Assets to Acres” Program
Seeking new ways to finance its land protection mission, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests has created a new land conservation program: Assets to Acres.
With public funding for land conservation and nonprofit organizations waning in the current economy, the Forest Society is looking at beyond-the-box strategies to fund its work.
“The Forest Society has always accepted donations of land and conservation easements as well as cash,” said the organization’s Vice President for Land Protection Paul Doscher. “Now we also have a way to convert gifts of other types of real estate assets into the protected acres.”
The Assets to Acres program allows individuals to support the conservation of New Hampshire’s landscapes by contributing a house, cottage, or parcel of land to the Forest Society. These real estate gifts are made with the understanding that they will be sold and the proceeds used to support land protection.
“Some people own property that they no longer want or need,” said Doscher. “Sometimes the carrying costs – taxes, insurance, maintenance – have become a burden to the owner.”
Donating real estate to the Forest Society enables the donor to quickly liquidate the asset, support land conservation, and receive a tax deduction in the process. The income tax deduction on gifts of real estate is based upon the fair market value of the property as determined by an independent appraisal.
Money from the sale is invested in the Forest Society’s Land Action Fund and Stewardship Funds, which are used to acquire land and conservation easements, and to steward the lands under the organization’s care.
The Land Action fund enables the Forest Society to purchase land and conservation easements on key parcels of land that have been identified as especially important to wildlife. Sometimes the Fund protects tracts that are models of sustainably managed forests. The fund also secures land that protects public drinking water supplies and the most productive agricultural soils. The Land Action Fund helped conserve the Lamprey River Forest in Epping, the Hebron Town Forest, and the Harrigan old growth tract in Columbia, among other properties.
The Forest Society holds conservation easements on more than 100,000 acres throughout the state. It also owns more than 160 reservations that are open to the public. Both the reservations and easements require long-term stewardship. Monies from the organization’s Conservation Easement Stewardship Endowment are used to ensure that the land on which the Forest Society holds easements remains in the undeveloped state that the original landowner sought to preserve. Funding from the Reservation Stewardship Endowment is used to maintain and manage Forest Society reservations for public access, education, water quality, and timber.
The Forest Society asks that participants in the Assets to Acres program specify how they would like their donations to be used. For example, one program participant requested that half the proceeds from the sale of her donated summer home be used to fund land protection efforts throughout the state, and the remainder be used to fund easement and reservation stewardship in the Monadnock Region. The elderly donor was thrilled, not only to be able to relieve herself of the burdens of owning a second home far from her primary residence, but to know that the value of the house would be used to protect more land and care for the mountain she loved.
“We’ve tried to make it as flexible as possible,” said Doscher.
For more information about Assets to Acres or land conservation, contact Paul Doscher or Susanne Kibler-Hacker at 224-9945 or visit www.forestsociety.org/a2a.
Founded in 1901, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests is the state’s oldest and largest non-profit land conservation organization. Supported by 10,000 families and businesses, the Forest Society’s mission is to perpetuate the forests of New Hampshire by establishing permanent conservation areas and promoting the wise stewardship of private lands. For more information, visit www.forestsociety.org.