How to Protect Your Land

Sonoma County Landscape Photo: Laufenburg Ranch

The landowners in Sonoma County play a vital role in the conservation of the diverse natural landscapes that define our region. Did you know that Sonoma County is one of the most biologically diverse counties in the United States? From the oak woodlands of the Mayacamas Mountains and the farm and vineyard lands of Sonoma Valley to the rugged Pacific coast and the tidal wetlands of the San Pablo Bay, Sonoma Land Trust has been helping people protect their property since 1976.

Your Goals for the Property

Our land protection staff is available to help you make long-term conservation plans for your property. There are several techniques available, all of which can be tailored to fit your unique circumstances. Your choice of which technique to pursue depends upon your goals for the property, the natural characteristics of the land, and your financial objectives, including income and estate tax planning.

Donate Your Land

Land donated to Sonoma Land Trust is truly one of the finest legacies a person can leave for future generations. If your land has significant conservation values, and no heir is available to protect your land; or if you own highly appreciated property, or have substantial real estate holdings which may result in high capital gains or estate tax burdens, a donation of land to Sonoma Land Trust may be an attractive alternative.

The donation of any interest in land to a qualified charitable organization, such as Sonoma Land Trust, may provide substantial income, property, or estate tax benefits, as well as avoidance of taxation on capital gains. Because federal regulations may limit a taxpayer's ability to fully utilize a deduction, a landowner should seek professional legal and tax advice when considering conservation options.

Fee Simple.

An owner may donate the entire fee simple interest in the property to Sonoma Land Trust.

Reserved Life Estate.

An owner may donate their property subject to a reserved life estate, meaning that the landowner and other identified persons can continue to live on the donated property during their lifetimes.

Last Will and Testament.

A donation via your Last Will and Testament lets you enjoy full lifetime use of the property while assuring that its conservation values will be protected for future generations. Careful estate planning can also reduce or eliminate the potentially devastating estate tax burdens faced by heirs.


There are also several land donation mechanisms through which a landowner may establish a regular income stream via annuity payments during the donor's life.


Sonoma Land Trust may accept properties which are not considered of high conservation value, yet would provide significant financial support to our work. The purpose of accepting these lands would be with the intent to resell them. The proceeds from these sales benefit additional land protection projects and other SLT programs.

Donate a Conservation Easement over your Land

One of the most powerful, effective tools available for the permanent protection of private lands in Sonoma County is a conservation easement. A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and Sonoma Land Trust which restricts the use of a particular property in order to protect its conservation values.

Conservation Easements are used to achieve a variety of conservation purposes, including open space preservation, agricultural preservation, and natural resource protection. The conservation easement is recorded in the form of a Grant Deed and is binding on successive owners of the property in perpetuity. In other words, it is forever.

Flexible tool.

A conservation easement is a flexible tool, and is tailored for each specific property based on the common preservation goals of the landowner and the holder of the easement. For example, conservation easements may prohibit development over scenic landscapes; prohibit non-agricultural uses over agricultural land; restrict timber harvests to sustainable levels over forest land; or require that land be kept “forever wild” over natural areas.

Land remains in private ownership.

Landowners retain title to the land and continue to occupy and use the lands under the terms of the Conservation Easement. A subsequent owner would also be obligated to use the lands under the terms of the Conservation Easement. A conservation easement is an excellent tool for families who wish to keep their land intact to pass on to the next generation.

Sell Your Land

In order to purchase land, Sonoma Land Trust must identify and secure funds from a variety of resources – local and state agencies and private organizations and foundations. A landowner offering a bargain sale (that is, selling the property for a price which is less than fair market value) increases the possibility that funding can be obtained for the transaction. A bargain sale also offers potential income tax benefits to the seller, as the difference between the appraised fair market value and the sale price is considered a tax-deductible charitable contribution.

For More Information

Please contact our Acquisitions Director at (707) 526-6930, extension 106.

Land donated to Sonoma Land Trust is truly one of the finest legacies a person can leave for future generations.




© 2018 Sonoma Land Trust. All Rights Reserved.