Harbor Watershed Lands Donated to HCT

To protect land, water and wildlife, two long-time Cape residents have donated three forested properties along South Street and Forest Street to the nonprofit Harwich Conservation Trust. The land donors prefer their privacy and opted not to be interviewed. By preserving the land, they could benefit from a federal income tax incentive for conservation restriction donations as well as the state’s new Conservation Land Tax Credit program.

The parcels provide woodland habitat as well as wetland features for a diversity of wildlife. The land happens to be located entirely within rare species habitat as mapped by the Massachusetts Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program. Because of the habitat mix, a variety of bird species inhabit the area. The calls of northern flicker, great-crested flycatcher, oriole, catbird and other birds can be heard in the neighborhood.

“These land donations also advance HCT’s broader Save Land – Save Water Initiative,” said Michael Lach, HCT’s Executive Director. HCT’s Save Land – Save Water Initiative is a long-range plan to protect sensitive saltwater and freshwater resources by strategically preserving watershed lands. The wetlands on these parcels eventually drain via groundwater to Allen Harbor and Saquatucket Harbor on Nantucket Sound.

One parcel is in the Saquatucket Harbor watershed while the other two are in the Allen Harbor watershed according to the Town of Harwich Draft Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan. “By preserving specific watershed lands, we can help protect harbor water quality, which also reduces the cost to taxpayers for future wastewater infrastructure,” said Lach.

Outright donation, also called fee simple donation, of land to a nonprofit land trust is one of the simplest ways to protect land. The donor can potentially receive a federal income tax deduction for the value of the gift against 30% of adjusted gross income for up to six years. The donor needs an appraisal when the claimed value of the deduction is more than $5,000. The donor also no longer has to worry about local property tax or liability.

Landowners can now benefit from the state’s new income tax credit. You do not need to reside in Massachusetts or even pay taxes here. If you own the land, and the land qualifies, you qualify. If you are an eligible landowner, your state income tax could be eliminated for the year, and the State would issue a check for the difference between the amount of that tax, and $50,000 or 50% of the land’s appraised value, whichever is less. HCT is working with more landowners right now who will benefit from the tax credit. “The new refundable state income tax credit is an attractive incentive for folks who are looking to preserve land and benefit tax-wise,” said Lach.

“Land donations account for most of the properties preserved by land trusts across Cape Cod. Land donation can also result in tax-savings for the donor,” according to Paula Pariseau, Senior Land Protection Specialist of The Compact of Cape Cod Conservation Trusts, Inc. (www.thecompact.net), a nonprofit land trust service center.

While it continues to complete land donation projects for several parcels across Harwich, HCT also recently launched its Pleasant Bay Woodlands Project. If HCT can raise $3.6 million, then it can purchase 49 acres which includes the largest remaining unprotected parcel in the Pleasant Bay watershed. Groundwater beneath the 49-acre landscape flows directly into Round Cove on Pleasant Bay.

Thanks to generous challenge donors including the Friends of Pleasant Bay, Wequassett Resort, The John T. Ryan, Jr. Memorial Foundation and three anonymous families, every dollar donated to HCT up to $1.8 million will be matched dollar-for-dollar. “It’s HCT’s 25th Anniversary Year, so we’re striving for success on many fronts to save special places,” said Lach. For more information about HCT and the Pleasant Bay Woodlands Project, visit www.HarwichConservationTrust.org.

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