Advocacy Guidance for Land Trusts

The advice on these pages  is for informational purposes only; it may not be relevant or accurate to any particular individual or organization and should not be considered a substitute for consulting with an attorney.

NEW!  Land Conservation in Connecticut:  A Primer 

With over 137 land trusts in the state represented by more than 1,000 dedicated board members, over 3,500 volunteers and nearly 40,000 land trust members, the land trust community has the potential to exert tremendous impact on state land conservation policy and funding.  CLCC continues to build on its success in harnessing this latent power by not only representing the interests of this community in Hartford but also by galvanizing the members to take action on their own with respect to critical issues.  To that end, Rachel Plawecki and Anthony Mecum, graduate students at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, developed a conservation primer for CLCC which may be used by advocates and land trust representatives when meeting with legislators on conservation policy issues.  This one-page document is available for download below.

Legalities of Lobbying for Land Trusts

As more land trusts get involved with advocacy, questions arise concerning what is legal or not under IRS regulations for non-profit organizations. It is important to note that it is perfectly legal for such groups to lobby; they just have to restrict the amount of it they do. This paper can get you started on the topic and the following websites can give you more information, though it’s important to check with an attorney about your particular situation.

State Laws Affecting Land Trusts  (see Conservation Primer for additional conservation-related Connecticut General Statutes)

State Tax Credits

While Connecticut laws do not provide a conservation tax credit or exemption for individual tax filers as federal law does, the state does provide significant incentives to corporations that donate land, or sell it for below market value, for conservation.

Recreational Liability

Connecticut Statutes provide some immunity from liability for people who injure themselves on land trust lands.

The most relevant statutes are Sections 52-557 f-j.  Again, check with an attorney, but basically, conservation organizations which open their land to the public for recreational purposes, without charging any fee, are immune from liability. You still can incur expenses for getting a case dismissed, so insurance is still important.  More information can be found by following the two Land Trust Alliance links below:

Courts have interpreted the law differently for municipalities, particularly on “improved” recreational properties, including those with swimming pools, tennis courts, or other constructed facilities.

Public Act 490 Current Use Property Tax Assessments

Connecticut law allows much farmland, open space, or forest land to be assessed for local property tax purposes, according to its current use rather than its potential use for development. This provides a critical reduction in tax rates for many landowners, who would otherwise have to sell their land for development.

Consult with these websites for more information:

Violations of or Encroachments on Preserved Land

In a recent legislative session, the CLCC worked with the Connecticut Council on Environmental Quality to significantly strengthen potential penalties against those who illegally cut trees on or otherwise damage preserved land. Previously, the laws which dated from the 1700’s, required penalties to be based on the timber value of the land, which with certain species, would have amounted to very little, even with 150-year-old trees with high conservation value. Under the recent law, penalties can be assessed up to five times the cost of replacing the cut trees or repairing other damage.

The new laws can be found at Section 52-560 (be sure to read Section 52-560a as well as 52-560) and, although not as relevant for most trusts, Section 23-65.htm.