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Saco Valley Land Trust is a Federal 501c(3) nonprofit, chartered to hold conservation easements and own land, as well as to promote the concepts of value of preservation of open spaces to wildlife, water quality and quality of place for southern Maine residents.

SVLT is an all-volunteer organization with a highly involved Board of Directors and a core group of volunteers from the community. We are also supported by a loyal group of paying members, a cadre of professionals who work pro-bono or for reduced fees, and receive financial support form several businesses.

SVLT owns almost 700 acres in Biddeford, Saco and Buxton, as well as conservation easements on 530 acres. Most of our land and easements have been generously donated to us. Our holdings are diverse; from small woodlots to two working farms. Many of our recent acquisitions have been open spaces attached to development plans in rural Biddeford. These pieces will provide immediate neighbors and the general public easy access to quiet areas, and are proving to be ‘magnets’ for other conservation components as nearby development occurs.

SVLT is conscious of its responsibilities to its donors. In response to our own growth and in response to the encouragement of national and regional Trust networks, SVLT has made extraordinary efforts to improve its internal structure, secure financial resources for future protection, and build up the board. SVLT’s all-volunteer board, for instance, has been attending workshops and courses designed to give boards the information they need to operate effectively.

Connecting With Our Place

Southern Maine Conservation Collaborative and its partners have conserved over 15,000 acres of land in Southern Maine. We rely on volunteers to take care of these special places. This video celebrates those environmental stewards of the land. Produced in partnership with Casco Bay Estuary Partnership and Casco Bay Stories. Film by Galen Koch, 2014.

Properties

Explore all of SVLT’s properties using this map. Click on a property for more details.

FAQ

How can property be conserved?

SVLT can hold a conservation easement, which extinguishes development rights, on a piece of property. A conservation easement is a document that describes the specific development rights and land use restrictions that the owner wants to conserve. Easements are written specifically for each property owner according to their wishes and monitored annually to be certain no violation is occurring. The easement is registered as part of the deed and transferred to each new property owner when the property is sold. Unless the easement contains an expiration date, these resrtictions apply in perpetuity.

Donation of land to SVLT is another way to conserve property. Some people prefer this method in order to take advantage of tax incentives.

A third method is for SVLT to purchase a piece of property. Since a major fund-raising campaign would be necessary to do this, we would reserve this option for only very significant pieces of property that would have wide support.

Do property owners pay SVLT to conserve their property?

No, there is no charge to the property owner. All SVLT board members are volunteers. If surveys or boundary markers are needed, there may be some preliminary expense to the property owner. Owners may want to consider the future expenses that SVLT may incur while protecting the easement from encroachment by abutters or future owners. Donations to our Stewardship Fund are strongly encouraged, as there will often be future expenses for land maintenance or legal defense of the easement restrictions.(see below).

If I give the SVLT an easement or a piece of land, will the land be open to the public?

The SVLT works with donors to craft easements or deeds that are acceptable to both parties. Some donors wish to limit public access; others wish to encourage it. Property that is being conserved for agricultural purposes may have to severely limit access due to safety concerns.

Can houses be built on property which has an easement on it?

Easements can allow limited building or no building, depending on the donors’ wishes. Certain other activities such as farming, mining or timber harvesting can be encouraged or prevented.

Landowners may need to see some financial benefits from their land beyond tax write-offs. These aspects should be discussed with the Trust, as funds are sometimes available for outright purchase of significant farmland or other natural resources.

What is a Stewardship Fund?

Monetary donations from the property owner to SVLT at the time of a conservation easement donation are set aside as either operating funds or stewarship funds. In case of a trespass or a violation of an easement, legal action may be needed. There are also expenses involved in monitoring properties. SVLT sets aside these donations, and other funds, to use in the future to protect easements. SVLT also raises funds on other ways. We collect minimal annual dues from SVLT members, accept gifts or donations from interested people, and apply for grants from local and national institutions.

Does it devalue property to have an easement on it?

No, in most cases. In fact, many potential buyers would prefer to have a larger tract of land for agricultural uses or privacy. Properly constructed easements do , however, reduce its value in relation to estate taxes. An experienced lawyer or tax accountant is a must in this case, as the federal estate tax laws are changing rapidly. Towns and cities are required to reduce taxes to the level of farmland/open space on protected properties above 10 contiguous acres.

How can interested people contact SVLT?

We meet at Saco City Hall on the first Thursday of each month at 7:00 pm. Our meetings are open to any interested people. Any of the board members may be contacted by phone. We also have an e-mail address: sacovalleymaine@gmail.com and a Facebook page.