How We Work
Civil War Trust Land Preservation Techniques
The Civil War Trust preserves land utilizing several well established conservation strategies. Ultimately, these efforts are guided by our mission to preserve significant battlefield land in perpetuity. For those interested in preserving a property we invite you to contact our real estate department directly.
We work only with willing sellers and each project is unique in its own way. However, in general, there are two types of preservation transactions:
1. Preservation in which the landowner retains ownership
( i.e. Conservation Easements )
2. Preservation that transfers ownership
( i.e. “Fee simple transactions” )
In order to determine what to buy and what preservation strategy best suits the project we first consult with a landmark study in the world of battlefield preservation, the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission Report (“CWSAC”).
The CWSAC Report was completed in 1993 by a 15-member Commission established by Congress to identify the most historically significant Civil War sites. Out of the nearly 10,000 battles and skirmishes of the war the report identified 384 principle battlefields worthy of preservation.
Once the Civil War Trust determines whether a prospective property is listed as a CWSAC eligible site, we utilize our Geographic Information System (“GIS”) computerized mapping capabilities to locate the potential property in relation to the historic landscape.
If a property is within the recognized boundary of a CWSAC eligible battlefield we must next determine how best to preserve the property. Generally, the Trust either purchases a permanent conservation easement or purchases the property outright in order to preserve the integrity of the land. Each type of transaction is described in greater detail below.
Conservation Easements Explained
A conservation easement is defined as, “A legal agreement between a landowner and an eligible organization (qualified land trust or state entity) that restricts future activities on the land to protect its conservation values in perpetuity.” Thus, the landowner still retains ownership of the property, but the permanent easement will protect the land from future development.
In most cases a conservation easement:
Does not allow for new structures, unless they are necessary for an agricultural operation.
Restricts any changes to the topography of the landscape.
Restricts the ability to subdivide a property.
Conservation easements can be very advantageous to landowners for several reasons:
Preservation of family land in perpetuity
Federal Income Tax benefit
Certain State Income Tax benefits
Estate tax benefits
Property tax benefits
Fee Simple Transactions Explained
There are several types of transactions that transfer ownership of a property which are described in greater detail below:
1. Sale or Donation of Land
The Civil War Trust generally pays fair market value for land, but landowners can sell for less and receive tax benefits.
2. Bargain Sales
Landowner sells land to land trust for less than fair market value which creates a charitable income tax deduction based on the difference between the land's fair market value and its sale price.
3. Sale Subject to Life Estate
Landowner sells or donates a remainder interest to land trust, but retains right to live and use property; land trust gains control upon death of landowner.
4. Sale/Leaseback Option
Landowner sells land to land trust, and then leases property back.
5. Sale to Conservation Buyer
Landowner sells land to conservation buyer at fair market value, and then the conservation buyer preserves the land and benefits from tax incentives.
Once the Trust determines the best preservation strategy, the Trust must determine how to pay for the transaction. Funding for Civil War Trust preservation projects generally comes from the following sources:
Federal Grants (Civil War Battlefield Preservation Program, Transportation Enhancement Program, Farm & Ranchland Protection Program)
State Grants (e.g. Virginia Civil War Historic Site Preservation Fund, NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund)
Other Non-Profit Organization Grants
Trust Member Contributions
For more information on possible Civil War battlefield land preservation please contact our Real Estate Department:
Director of Real Estate
202.367.1861 ext. 7227
202.367.1861 ext. 7209