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Good to know: useful information brought to you by the Hartland Land Trust


What is a Land Trust?

Land trusts are organizations directly involved in protecting land for its natural, recreational, scenic, historical, or agricultural value.   Land trusts may purchase or accept donations of land or of conservation easements, manage land owned by others, or advise landowners about how to preserve their land.


National Wild and Scenic Rivers

by Susan Murray

Hartland is characterized by expansive natural resources providing the foundation for inclusion into the National Wild and Scenic River System.  With a majority of Hartland containing vast contiguous tracts of land, water continues to play an ever important role.  Hartland is fortunate to possess a significant network of streams, rivers and waterways with an abundance of natural resources, recreational and aesthetic benefits. Our water quality is outstanding and supplied to over 400,000 Hartford county residents.

Hartland’s first association with the National Wild and Scenic River System was with the Wild and Scenic designation of 14 miles of the Upper Farmington River in 1994 by an act of Congress.  The section of the Farmington River in Hartland is in the outermost southwest corner.  The Farmington River Coordinating Committee (FRCC), a non-regulatory group, and its partners provide the stewardship management for the Farmington River and its upper watershed among the five river-front towns (Barkhamsted, Canton, Colebrook, Hartland, and New Hartford) and are committed to ensuring the river’s beauty and character will be enjoyed by generations to come.

More recently, Hartland’s second affiliation with the National Wild and Scenic River System is participation in “The Lower Farmington River and Salmon Brook Wild and Scenic Study” which was initiated by the Farmington River Watershed Association (FRWA) and was signed into law by President Bush in November, 2006.  The Feasibility Study includes the 10 towns of Avon, Bloomfield, Burlington, Canton, East Granby, Farmington, Granby, Hartland, Simsbury, and Windsor. The Committee’s membership combines 2-3 locally appointed representatives of each town, FRWA, Salmon Brook Watershed Association (SBWA), CT Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and The Stanley Works.  The National Parks Service (NPS) provides staff support, funding, and overall coordination.

In gaining recognition for the Wild and Scenic designation, the river must possess at least one Outstanding Resource Value (“ORV”) and be “Free Flowing”.  The Committee has determined the following ORV’s for the Lower Farmington/Salmon Brook:  Geology, Water Quality, Biological Diversity, Cultural Landscape and Recreation.  The Study Area segment within Hartland is the West Branch of the Salmon Brook in the southeast corner of town which exhibits the ORV of excellent water quality.

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This article provides general information and does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion. 

Landowners: Understanding the Options

For anyone who owns a large tract of undeveloped land, the question of what to do with that land long term can seem overwhelming.  As we get older, we may not be capable of maintaining it.  Our children may not want the land because they live far away or they are not interested in owning or maintaining a large property.  For many, land represents our most significant asset and we feel compelled to divide that asset among our children or family members.  This inheritance dilemma can lead to the subdivision or sale of the land contrary to our interest in protecting or preserving the land.  Different options exist and landowners should explore these options before making any final decisions regarding the succession of their land.

Under the law, property ownership or title to land is described as a bundle of sticks where each stick represents one right – the right to use, the right to sell, the right to lease or rent, etc.  These different sticks can be divided in different ways at different times and among different people or entities and it is not until you have sold or given away all of the sticks that you are no longer considered the owner of the land under the law.  Unfortunately, many landowners do not realize that they have all of these rights. An understanding of how these rights can be divided and the legal tools available may help resolve the quandary of what to do with your land.

  • You can make a donation of the land outright to a charitable organization that is equipped to assume the responsibilities of ownership. The gift can be made during your lifetime or through your will.  This option may be best where you and your family live elsewhere and are no longer able to or interested in maintaining the land.
  • If you want to exercise some control over the land during your lifetime or into the future, you can attach certain restrictions to the land (covenants) or retain certain rights to the land (easement) when you make the donation.  
  • If you or your family live on the land or want to continue to use it, you can donate the land while retaining the right to use it during your lifetime, or during that of your spouse, partner or child (donation or bequest with retained life estate). 
  • If you do not want to give away the land itself but you do want to grant access to the land or the right to use the land in a particular way, you can retain title to the land and give away certain rights to use it (easements).  Easements are very flexible tools that can be crafted to suit your needs and they do not affect your ability to continue to occupy or use the land, or to donate or bequeath the land.  Typically the easement “runs with the land” meaning that the next owner assumes all of the rights that you have to the land while the holder of the easement continues to enjoy the rights that were given through the easement.
  •  Another way to control the current and future use of the land is to include restrictions in the title, referred to as covenants.  Covenants are promises that bind all future owners; they can be either positive meaning they require certain action or negative in that they prohibit certain activities.  Homeowners associations, for example, operate almost entirely by covenants that were included in the title to the land upon the first sale and they bind all future owners.  Covenants can be used in a variety of creative ways for the conservation and preservation of land and, like an easement, your right to sell, donate or bequeath your land is not affected. 
  • Finally, there are creative estate planning tools available such as charitable gift annuities and charitable remainder trusts that allow you to derive some financial benefit from a donation of land to a charitable organization. 

Many of these options can produce tax benefits for the landowner during his or her lifetime or for his or her estate through state and/or federal programs.  For example, the donation of land can reduce or eliminate current property tax liability and can reduce or eliminate estate taxes.   In addition, these different tools are flexible enough to be tailored to the individual landowner, to the unique characteristics of the property, your financial situation, and your family’s needs.  An appropriate balance can be achieved between the desire to preserve and protect the land and the need to provide for one’s family.  The Hartland Land Trust is happy to provide you with additional information about these options and can help you find an advisor should you wish to explore how these options might be applied to your specific situation.


Hey Boo-Boo, What’s in that Pic-a-nic Basket?

by Carol Blouin, Master Wildlife Conservationist

One of the greatest gifts Hartland offers is bountiful peace and solitude.  There is no greater joy than having spent an early spring morning fruitfully laboring in the out-of-doors and then enjoying an uninterrupted noontime meal basking in the warm sunshine.  Upon finding my favorite perch, I laid out my noon repast, serenaded by a twittering assortment of avian crooners gleefully flitting from tree to tree, giddy with mating rituals.  The fields and woodland edges were a cacophony of movement and sound intermingled with an urgent sense of duty.  I too was focused, with filling my empty stomach and then moving onto the plethora of chores demanding my attention. Settling into my lunch, I sensed that I was being watched. Looking about, I laid eyes on my uninvited dinner companion.  Not more than 10 feet away peering curiously through the greening lilac and viburnum, just over the lichen encrusted stone wall sat a rather portly fellow eyeballing my noontime fare. A leathery nose wiggled taking in the aroma of my feast, while his beseeching liquid black eyes fixed a bead upon my person.  Not wishing to be rude, yet unwilling to share my victuals,and remembering to back away slowly, I skedaddled to the barn in a rather urgent and direct manner.  All the while this bear simply watched as if he were a patron at the zoo watching the humans at feeding time.  The show over, the patron lifted its bulk from his place of repose, then loped noiselessly to his next opportunity for food. 

Needless to say, I sighed a breath of relief and wondered how that bear managed to sneak up on me. I have always tried to make a point of being acutely aware of my surroundings; apparently I let my guard down this day.  Black bears are quick and can be criminally quiet. When living in bear country, as we do, it is important not to inadvertently attract bears to our yards.  My close encounter occurred on garbage day, when he was more than likely just passing through and found some entertaining activity along the way. Lucky me!  Here is a checklist to avoid bear encounters:

  • Always keep your garbage in a secure location
  • On pick-up day spray ammonia inside the can and on the exterior lid.  Bears have a keen sense of smell, but will avoid a horrid offensive odor like ammonia; baby diapers and used cat litter can have the same effect.
  • Keep pet and bird food inside and avoid feeding the birds in the spring, summer and fall
  • Limit feeding feathered visitors to the deep winter months when bears generally remain asleep in their dens.
  • Eliminate sources of food in the yard to reduce the time a bear spends there. No food.  No bear.  No problem.
  • Get your neighbors to join in to discourage the bulk of bear activity in your neighborhood.

Remember bears are wild animals and their behavior is unpredictable. Once they find a consistent source of food whether from garbage cans, bird feeders or other sources they will return again and again to satiate their ravenous appetites.  Bears are best kept wild. When bears link humans with food the possibility of human/bear conflicts increase.  It is our task to be smarter than the bears, to eliminate easy sources of human provided food and to keep them in their own habitat.      


 

Connecticut Number Three

In the Winter 2009 issue of the Land Trust Alliance magazine, Saving Land, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy listed Connecticut among the top ten in energy efficiency.  Connecticut holds third place with California number one and Oregon number two.  Our neighbors New York and Massachusetts are five and seven respectively.