Category: Non-Profit Spotlight

Guest Post: A Look into Conservation Easements with Land Trust of North Alabama Executive Director, Marie Bostick

Today’s guest post is by Marie Bostick, Executive Director of Land Trust of North Alabama.

Many different strategies may be employed to conserve land including, donations, bargain sales, bequests and conservation easements.  Each has its own benefits and constraints based on the goals of the parties involved in the transaction. This article will focus on the use of conservation easements.

A conservation easement (CE) is a land conveyance from a private land owner to either a governmental entity or non-profit 501(c)3 Land Trust, which places restrictions on a property that has appropriate conservation values. The holder of the conservation easement (either the Land Trust or governmental entity) is responsible for monitoring the property in perpetuity to make sure the easement provisions are not violated.  The easement itself is negotiated between the parties to meet specific conservation goals and allow the land owner the continued to use of the property, so long as the uses don’t conflict with the conservation goals.  A key benefit to a conservation easement is the land owner’s ability to take a federal tax deduction for the value of the donation.  However, in order to take advantage of these tax benefits, the land owner must comply with the IRS Code requirements.

IRS Code 170 (a) and (h) provide the requirements that must be followed to execute a “qualified” conservation easement. One of these requirements is that a “qualified” entity – such as the Land Trust of North Alabama – must hold the easement. Another requirement, as mentioned above, is that the easement be held in perpetuity. For example, the restrictions that are placed on the property through the CE must be in the recorded document and the Land Trust must monitor and enforce those restrictions forever. In the event the fee interest in the land is sold to another party, the conservation easement will run with the land and the restrictions remain in effect. In order to assist the entity that is holding the easement to perform its enforcement obligation, a stewardship and defense donation is often included as a part of the overall transaction. Of course, a key requirement is that the property serves a valid conservation purpose, and the IRS Code list four conservation values that are used to make this determination.  Most land trusts also have criteria for conservation properties which must be met. While there is often overlap between these conservation values, the land owner and conservation easement holder must work together in determining if the conservation easement is appropriate for both parties. Lastly, the CE must be substantiated, which is typically done through a qualified appraisal and appraiser and documented by way of a Form 8283.

While completing a Conservation Easement to the standards of the IRS and the easement holder is a meticulous and detailed process, a landowner can realize substantial federal tax benefits.  Currently, a landowner can deduct the value of the conservation easement donation up to 50% of their annual income and carry forward any remaining donation value for period of up to 15 years.  Qualified ranchers and farmers are eligible for greater tax incentives, with the ability to deduct the value of their donation up to 100% of their annual income, with a carry forward period of 15 years.

Executing a conservation easement is a complicated process and the benefits vary with each person’s unique situation. Anyone considering a conservation easement should consult with their own tax professional to determine whether it is a viable option for them.

For information about Land Trust of North Alabama and working with them to protect your land, visit www.landtrustnal.org/preserve-land.

Community Spotlight: The Liberty Learning Foundation

Sometimes, it’s difficult not be consumed by negative newspaper articles or cable news shows that leave you frazzled and questioning the direction of our nation. Luckily, our school kids, with the help of the Liberty Learning Foundation, are on their way and ready to show us what it means to be a good citizen. 

The Liberty Learning Foundation (LLF), a nonprofit and nonpartisan 501(c)(3), is dedicated to teaching, inspiring, and empowering school children to know about civics, history, good character, community engagement, financial responsibility, and career readiness. These important subjects are often cut by school systems eager to focus on teach-to-test subjects like science and math. Liberty is built on the belief that science and math alone cannot continue our nation’s progress, and that a curriculum that includes lessons about the history of our nation and what it means to be a good citizen add to the overall well being of students.

The mission for the Liberty Learning Foundation began with a simple question: How can schools, community leaders, and businesses work together to ensure out next generation understands its important role in America’s future? The answer is a ten-week Super Citizen program that includes a big kick off with an appearance by Libby Liberty, a professionally-developed curriculum, project-based learning, and an ending celebration that shows children what they’re capable of when they work together. 

I recently had the great opportunity to attend the Liberty Learning Foundation Kick-Off Event for Huntsville City Second Graders (and get my picture with Libby Liberty). It was such a fun and unique event that served as a pep rally for the ten-week educational program. The children left excited about the opportunity to learn more about history and servant leadership. 

Lady Liberty and Jessica Smith

Liberty Learning Foundation currently serves over 40,000 students in 270 schools and communities around Alabama, and they want to grow! They primarily rely on private donations to sustain and grow the program because they don’t want to burden school systems with an unfunded program.

Let us know if you are interested learning more about Liberty Learning Foundation or attending one of their local kick-off programs with area schools. If you are a believer in the importance of teaching history, civics and good citizenship to children, it is an event I think you’ll enjoy. Our friend, Dr. John Kvach, Vice President of Liberty Learning Foundation, has offered personal invitations and would be happy to speak with you more on how the Liberty Learning Foundation is creating the “next generation of great Americans”.    

Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center

I had the good fortune of serving in Leadership Huntsville/Madison County’s Connect Class 19 with Melissa Reynolds, Executive Director of Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center. I saw and felt Melissa’s passion around her work with Merrimack Hall, and I have had the joy of seeing the teams of entertainers from Merrimack perform at a number of events around town. They never fail to put a smile on my face and fill the house will applause.

Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center is a 501©(3) nonprofit organization located in the historic Merrimack Mill Village neighborhood of Huntsville, Alabama. Merrimack offers arts education and social and cultural opportunities to children, teens, and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities.

Debra and Alan Jenkins purchased Merrimack Hall in May 2006 and established the organization as a 501©(3) nonprofit. After nearly $2.5 million in renovations donated personally by the Jenkins family, Merrimack Hall opened to the public in 2007. The facility is now home to a 300-seat performance hall, 3,000 square foot dance studio, and community spaces. Merrimack Hall utilizes these spaces as a venue for socialization and activities for the individuals enrolled in their outreach programs.

Merrimack Hall is home to The Happy Headquarters. The Happy Headquarters has three distinct components:

  • Happy HeARTs – A year-round after-school program of arts education that includes classes in dance, creative movement, choir, yoga, fitness, creative writing and multi-media visual arts
  • Happy Days – A day program for adults 18+ that is focused on arts-related activities, music therapy and life skills
  • Happy Camp – A series of half-day summer camps.

Merrimack Hall serves hundreds of children and adults with special needs diagnoses such as Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and a host of other conditions. They believe everyone deserves the right to participate in the arts regardless of their disabilities. Their Happy team can be found performing all over the city of Huntsville. Visit the Events section of their Facebook page for where you can find them next.

Merrimack Hall relies on the support of over 800 volunteers each year.  Volunteer coaches work with the students in their Johnny Stallings Arts Program (JSAP) to learn music, art, and dance.  More importantly, they serve as mentors and friends to their partners with special needs.  In each program component of JSAP, they encourage their volunteers to interact with students in a meaningful way to create lasting friendships.

For more information, visit them on the web at http://www.merrimackhall.com/, by calling (256) 534-6455, or by e-mail at info@merrimackhall.com.

2017 HudsonAlpha Foundation Tie the Ribbons

Since 2015, Longview has proudly served as a sponsor for the HudsonAlpha Foundation’s annual Tie the Ribbons event. This year’s event was held on Wednesday, November 8th in the Von Braun Center North Hall. The official press release can be found here.

Tie the Ribbons kicked off Information is Power, a collaboration with HudsonAlpha and Kailos Genetics, in 2015 with a year-long genetic cancer risk testing initiative. The screening, which is a test for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 hereditary forms of breast and ovarian cancer, was free for 30-year-old women and was available for anyone age 19 and older living in Madison, Limestone, Marshall, Jackson, and Morgan counties for a reduced price. Over 1400 people participated in the initiative and around 40 people discovered they had an increased risk of cancer.

In 2016, Phase II was announced. Redstone Federal Credit Union sponsored an expansion of the Information is Power initiative which ran through October 28, 2017. During that time, all women AND men in the aforementioned five counties who are 30 years of age could receive the genetic test at no charge! Anyone age 19 or older can also complete the test for $129.

Now, in 2017, Information is Power has been expanded again, thanks to a generous donation from Redstone Federal Credit Union. Free genetic cancer risk testing is now available to women and men, age 28 to 32 in Madison, Limestone, Jackson, Marshall, and Morgan Counties. The screening not only tests for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, but for almost two dozen genes linked to breast, ovarian, prostate, and colorectal cancers.

For information about how to order your test, visit Kailos Genetics’ website.

In this video, you’ll meet some of the scientists working to find the next major cancer discovery and hear personal experiences from individuals about their battle.

From their website, here’s a brief synopsis about HudsonAlpha:

HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology is a nonprofit institute dedicated to innovating in the field of genomic technology and sciences across a spectrum of biological challenges. Opened in 2008, its mission is four-fold: sparking scientific discoveries that can impact human health and well-being; bringing genomic medicine into clinical care; fostering life sciences entrepreneurship and business growth; and encouraging the creation of a genomics-literate workforce and society. The HudsonAlpha biotechnology campus consists of 152 acres nestled within Cummings Research Park, the nation’s second largest research park. Designed to be a hothouse of biotech economic development, HudsonAlpha’s state-of-the-art facilities co-locate nonprofit scientific researchers with entrepreneurs and educators. The relationships formed on the HudsonAlpha campus encourage collaborations that produce advances in medicine and agriculture. HudsonAlpha has become a national and international leader in genetics and genomics research and biotech education, and includes more than 30 diverse biotech companies on campus. To learn more about HudsonAlpha, visit hudsonalpha.org.

JJ, Debbie, Whitney, Jessica, Lauren, and Andrew were in attendance.

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