A land trust helps protect Georgia's environment

Families in Northeast Georgia recently protected their land by granting conservation easements to the Athens Land Trust. The families gave the easements to the trust to protect the natural resources of their properties for their heirs.

Trusts are powerful tools that can serve a variety of charitable and estate planning functions. The primary purpose of a trust is to manage property by transferring benefits and obligations associated with the property to different people. Trusts can supplement or even replace wills and help manage properties during a person's life.

An easement is a "nonpossessory interest" in another person's land, which means that the trust has rights to conserve the environment on the property owner's land while the property owners retain ownership. By donating conservation easements to the trust, the homeowners permanently gave up their future development rights but retained the ability to sell the properties or pass the properties down to their heirs, the Athens Banner-Herald reports.

The Athens Land Trust is a 15-year-old conservation trust that helps protect Georgia's environment. In addition to protecting the environment of Northeast Georgia, the trust also helps provide energy efficient affordable housing in Clarke County. The trust also plans to establish a community garden network in Athens.

The trust now holds conservation easements that protect 1,200 acres in Clarke, Barrow, Oconee, Walton Franklin, Habersham, and Wilkes counties. The land includes working farmland, forest, and wetlands, among other things.

The recent conservation easement donations are the trust's first conservation easements in Franklin and Habersham counties. The conservation easements include 175 acres of forest, wetlands and trout streams, the Athens Banner-Herald reports. The properties are adjacent to the Chattahoochee National Forest.

Source: Athens Banner-Herald, "Trust gets easements in Franklin, Habersham," Don Nelson, 3/5/11

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