To protect land, water and wildlife, two landowners (Sharon Eberhardt & anonymous) donated three forested properties along South Street and Forest Street to HCT.  Meanwhile, another donor (Pete Peterson) gifted a building lot to preserve HCT_Forest-South-St_22Dec2013_optwildlife habitat and roadside scenery in the neighborhood.  Depending on the land preserved, donors can benefit from federal income tax incentives and/or the state’s new Conservation Land Tax Credit program.

The parcels provide woodland habitat as well as wetland features for a diversity of wildlife.  Some of the land happens to be located 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 others 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.

Northern flicker: photo by David Constance

Many bird species including northern flicker benefited from the land donations to HCT.

“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 is also leading the 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.