By William F. Galvin, CAPE COD CHRONICLE:
HARWICH — The Harwich Conservation Trust has received two land donations in the Grassy Pond/Saquatucket Harbor Watershed. The land donations help to protect the water quality of Grassy Pond and a potential vernal pool.
Harwich Conservation Trust Executive Director Michael Lach cited the importance of the land donations while also praising a new state income tax credit program providing additional benefits to landowners wishing to protect and preserve the environment. Lach said anyone looking to learn more about federal income tax reductions and the state income tax credit for land conservation can attend a workshop for landowners on Saturday, April 13 at 9:30 a.m. at the community center.
The trust received a land donation from Andrea Aldrovandi behind her home on Grist Mill Lane. Lach said her mother, Marcia Iddles, always wanted the woods permanently preserved and those wishes have been fulfilled with the donation to HCT.
“Marcia Iddles, my mother, was a staunch advocate for Cape Cod’s dwindling open space long before it became a popular, mainstream notion. She lived plainly and simply; in quiet rebellion during a time of belief in environmental inexhaustability. This resulted in her harmonious existence with the Earth and its natural processes,” Aldrovandi said.
Iddles purchased two parcels in the 1960s, not for resale or profit but with the intention of doing her part, “no matter how infinitesimal in the eyes of others, to preserve it for Cape Cod.” She wanted to provide a place where animals driven from their homes by development would have a place to live, her daughter said.
“I am happy the Harwich Conservation Trust will now be the steward of this small piece of the world. And I am confident that they will ensure it stays as my mum wanted it to be: protected and preserved for the years to come,” Aldrovandi said.
Just across Bank Street, Lach said, Richard Tichnor and Jennifer Smith made the decision to preserve four acres of wetland by donating the land to HCT. The wetland is situated in the watershed to Grassy Pond, which flows down Cold Brook through the trust’s Bank Street Bog Natural Preserve into Saquatucket Harbor and out to Nantucket Sound. The land also connects town-owned land to the north and south. Both land donations took advantage of the new state income tax credit program, Lach said.
“Andrea, Richard and Jennifer not only helped to protect groundwater flowing to Saquatucket Harbor, they also helped to protect the wildlife of their neighborhood,” the HCT executive director said. “These land donations
help to protect the water quality of Grassy Pond and a potential vernal pool. The upland surrounding a vernal pool harbors the amphibians that need the pool for survival. In April, wood frogs and spotted salamanders migrate from their woodland burrows to lay eggs in vernal pools.”
Lach pointed out even though state and local wetland regulations help protect a 50-foot buffer around wetlands, vernal pools can be dry most of the year and therefore can slip beneath the protective regulatory radar. He said amphibians can also migrate beyond the 50-foot buffer, often hundreds of feet into woodlands where no legal protection exists unless the land is preserved.
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 percent 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, Lach said.
The HCT executive director also said landowners can 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 percent of the land’s appraised value, which ever is less.
“The new refundable state income tax credit is an attractive incentive for folks who are looking to preserve land and benefit tax-wise,” Lach said. “Land donations account for most of the properties preserved by land trusts across Cape Cod.”