The Louisville/Jefferson County Environmental Trust envisions a network of neighborhood parks, greenways, historic sites, and natural areas that create a community in harmony with its environment.
The Louisville and Jefferson County Environmental Trust protects land for future generations through voluntary cooperative programs. Created in 1997, the Trust helps to implement Cornerstone 2020’s goals related to parks and natural areas, greenways, historic sites and farmland. The Trust’s nine-member Oversight Board consists of five citizens and four members who represent government agencies responsible for public land. The Trust’s staff is housed at Metro Parks. In a unique cooperative arrangement, technical expertise and staff support are also provided by staff in Metro Planning and Design, Facilities Management, Metropolitan Sewer District and the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office.
The Louisville and Jefferson County Environmental Trust weaves together strategies for meeting the park and land preservation needs of current and future Louisville residents. The Trust:
- Promotes stewardship of natural and cultural resources, both public and private, within Louisville and Jefferson County
- Explores the use of voluntary methods of private land preservation such as donation and purchase of conservation easements and land
- Coordinates with all Louisville Metro agencies that manage natural areas on public land
- Advises the Metro Council on matters of land conservation
- Educates the community about the need to preserve natural areas and increasingly rare agricultural land
In order to educate Louisville residents about the need to preserve parks, natural areas, and agricultural land, the Trust sponsors land preservation workshops, seminars, and public presentations. Trust staff is also available to talk with community and civic groups and individual landowners.
The Trust’s projects involve agreements that will permanently conserve several unique areas. The Trust holds thirteen conservation and scenic easements and oversees several preservation or façade easements on over 1,000 acres of privately owned land in Louisville and Oldham County. These properties represent a diverse array of natural and historic resources that will enhance the quality of life for future generations of Louisville residents.
This rich portfolio includes an 1891 downtown office building, an early nineteenth century rural farmstead, an early twentieth century country estate and farm complex overlooking the Ohio River, a ridge-top orchard and forest retreat in the Knobs, a working farm producing heirloom sheep, an 82-acre property in the Floyds Fork watershed that will be conserved and managed as a nature preserve in honor of the donor’s wife and several properties that protect over 120 acres of increasingly rare southwest Jefferson County wetlands that would otherwise have been lost to development. In 2011 the Trust’s conservation program took a more regional turn with the acceptance of a conservation easement on a 524-acre farm in Oldham County that helps protect the Harrods Creek watershed that is shared by both Jefferson and Oldham Counties. The Trust has now accepted two more conservation easements in Oldham County, and is partnering with the nonprofit land trust Oldham Ahead on those projects.
The Trust staff and board continue to discuss land preservation strategies with landowners who are exploring ways to conserve their land and historic structures.
Public Land Management
In addition to the oversight of its privately owned conservation easements, the Environmental Trust also works closely with local government agencies on land conservation planning and management of publicly-owned sites. For example, the Trust collaborates with the Metropolitan Sewer District, which holds conservation easements in floodplains and along stream corridors. The goal is to work with MSD to ensure that those easements are adequately monitored and the properties preserved over the long term.
LAND CONSERVATION OPTIONS
The Trust assists landowners, land trusts and other non-profit organizations, elected officials, government agencies, developers and the business community by helping them understand the tools and options available for land preservation. The Trust’s staff works with landowners to develop long-term plans for the preservation and use of their land. With the landowner’s assistance, staff identifies each property’s natural, scenic, historic and agricultural resources and helps determine ways to preserve those conservation values. The Trust also works with government agencies and businesses to identify opportunities for meeting the park and natural area preservation needs of Louisville Metro’s residents. This may include protecting greenways for hiking, biking, and walking trails, natural areas for wildlife protection or scenic views along roadways. Another role of the Trust is to assist government agencies in identifying funding strategies for acquisition and management of parkland.
Conservation easements are one of the most widely used tools available for long term land conservation. A conservation easement is a voluntary, legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. Land protected by a conservation or preservation agreement can remain in private ownership. This allows landowners to continue to own and use their land to sell it or pass it on to heirs.
They can be written to help achieve the landowner’s goals while assuring protection for the land.
Land preservation agreements remain in force even after the land changes hands.
CAN PROVIDE TAX BENEFITS.
A land preservation agreement is considered a charitable donation. If the donation qualifies as a gift under the Internal Revenue Code Section 170(h), it may ease the income or estate tax burden of the landowner.
DO NOT REQUIRE PUBLIC ACCESS.
While some landowners do allow public access for activities such as hiking trails or canoe put-ins along rivers, this is entirely the choice of the landowner.
REQUIRE REGULAR MONITORING.
Monitoring and enforcement of the terms of the easement begin at the time of the donation with careful documentation of the property, including the land’s physical and resource attributions. Sites are monitored annually.
The Trust provides information about conservation easements and other land preservation options. The Trust does not, however, provide legal or financial advice nor can it guarantee that a deduction will be realized. Conservation easements are perpetual and involve a technical area of the law. Each landowner should consult with an attorney to review the easement, and may also wish to consult with an accountant or tax planner.
To learn more about conservation easements and other land trusts be sure to visit: The Land Trust Alliance (lta.org)
Kurt D. Mason - Chair
Noel Rueff – Vice Chair
Metro Government Members:
Emily Liu - Director, Metro Planning and Design Services
Vanessa Burns - Director, Metro Public Works
Michael Heitz – Director, Metro Parks
Greg Heitzman – Director, Metropolitan Sewer District
Louise Allen - Oldham Ahead , Inc.
Phyllis Croce - Landscape Restoration Specialist
Susan Hamilton – Attorney and Conservation Planner
Richard Jett – Historic Preservation Advocate
Jim Urban - Oldham County Planning & Development Services
Theresa Zawacki – Metro Economic Growth and Innovation
Alternates and Staff
Milana Boz - Metro Parks, Planning and Design
Vacant - Metro Public Works
Lisa Hite - Metro Parks, Planning and Design
Cynthia Johnson - Metro Historic Landmarks and Preservation Districts Commission
Bennett Knox - Metro Parks, Natural Areas Division
Bryan Lewis - Metro Parks, Natural Areas Division
Scott Porter - Metropolitan Sewer District
Louisville/Jefferson County Environmental Trust
c/o Louisville Metro Parks
P.O. Box 37280
Louisville, Kentucky 40233-7280
(502) 456-8100; fax (502) 456-8116
“The entire community benefits when land is preserved through the donation of a conservation easement. Unfortunately, most of us never realize the value of that gift until the land, wildlife habitat, historic structures and scenic vistas become a rare and almost extinct commodity of our communities. The people who come to the LJCET for assistance have a vision that perhaps few others see. Our role is to help them find ways to maintain this vision and offer the opportunity for others to enjoy it for many more years.”
- Kurt Mason, Chairman