How Do I Preserve My Land in Amherst?

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Landowners in the town of Amherst have several different options for permanently preserving their land.  To help you decide which option is right for you, answer the following questions:

     1. Do I want my land to be owned and managed by the town conservation agency or a conservation  
         orgnization an enjoyed by the public?   Or do I want to retain ownership but know that it will always remain
         undeveloped, regardless of ownership?

     2. Can I consider a donation of my property for conservation, or do I need to receive at least some financial
     3. Would I like to see the property preserved soon, say in the next few years, or at a later date, such as a 
         bequest or gift? 
     4. Do I wish to limit future uses of the property when I convey title? 
     5. Do I wish my land to be temporarily or permanently preserved? 


The most common options for land preservation are described below, but combinations and variations of options can be designed to meet the landowner’s specific objective.  If you have questions about preserving your land, or decide you would like to preserve your land in Amherst, please call Dave Ziomek at (413) 259-3045, to discuss your options.  


Permanent Preservation

Fee Acquisition
Fee Acquisition is the outright purchase of the property by the Town for conservation purposes.  It transfers ownership and management responsibility to the town, and provides cash to the owner.

Donating land to the Town of Amherst is the most straightforward method of permanent land conservation.  “Donating” means conveying land to the town for no compensation or minimal compensation.  It transfers ownership and management responsibility to the town, provides maximum income tax and estate tax benefits for the landowner, and avoids the capital gains tax.

Agricultural Preservation Restrictions (APR’s) – Private ownership
The APR program is a voluntary program that allows the State, Town, or a combination of the two to purchase the development rights from the farmer or landowner in order to preserve the land’s use for agriculture.  The development rights are defined as the difference between the fair market value of the land and the agricultural value of the land.

A farm must have the following criteria to apply:  A farm must be at least five (5) acres in size; the land has to have been actively devoted to agriculture for the two (2) immediately preceding tax years; at least $500 in gross sales per year for first 5-acres; plus $5 for each additional acre or 50 cents per each additional acre of woodland and/or wetland.

Conservation Restrictions (CR’s) – Private ownership
The CR program is a voluntary program that allows landowners to permanently preserve their land while retaining ownership. It allows a landowner to place limitations on development and retain certain uses for themselves and future owners.  The development rights are held by the State with additional restrictions held by the Town. This ensures the land will remain in its natural, open condition.

Temporary Preservation
Chapter 61 land - General
There are three Chapter 61 laws providing a voluntarily and temporary form of conservation.  Land is committed, by the landowner, to be used temporarily for agricultural, forest, or recreational use in exchange for a reduction in taxes paid to the local municipality. Parcels taxed under the Chapter 61 (Forestry), Chapter 61A (Agriculture), and 61B (Recreation) tax classification are in private ownership and are not preserved open space areas. The tax classification enables the lands to be taxed at their use value rather than the full fair market value. The Town has the right of first refusal if the parcels are sold prior to the expiration of the tax abated status. Owners of land classified under Chapters 61, 61A, and 61B must notify the Town before selling or converting the land to another use. This allows the Town to preserve individual open space parcels as they enter the market or become threatened by development.  The Chapter 61 programs also serve as a critical first step to in developing coordinated priorities for the permanent preservation of important natural resources.

Chapter 61 – Private ownership
Known as the “Forestland Tax Law”, Chapter 61 helps maintain open land by providing tax benefits to maintain forests. This program is for properties of contiguous forestland of ten acres or more and is administered by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).

To qualify, a landowner must have a minimum of ten contiguous acres and a ten-year forest management plan approved by the State Forester.  Every ten years the land owner must file an application for recertification with the town.  The application must include a new certification by the State Forester.

Chapter 61A – Private ownership
Chapter 61A classification is for lands used primarily for agriculture or horticulture. Land in agricultural use is defined as land primarily used in raising animals, which includes everything from cattle to bees to fur-bearing animals. Land in horticultural use is land used for growing anything from fruit to vegetables to ornamental shrubs. 

To qualify for the program, a landowner must have at least five acres in farm use for at least 2 years prior to the application.  Each year, the farmer must also demonstrate sales of farm products produced on the land equal to $500 for the first five acres, and $5 for every acre thereafter, except for forest and wetlands, which must produce $0.50 per acre.  Chapter 61A classification runs for a one-year period and the landowner must file an application nine months before the start of the next tax year.

Chapter 61 B – Private ownership
Chapter 61B is designed to promote conservation of open space and recreational lands. To qualify for the program, a landowner must have at least five acres retained in a substantially natural, wild, open, pastured or landscaped condition. Recreational use includes hiking, camping, golfing, horseback riding, skiing, swimming and others specified in the Chapter 61B statute.  A landowner can also qualify with a minimum of five acres of forestland under a forest management plan certified by the State Forester to allow the preservation of wildlife and other natural values such as water resources, clean air, rare or endangered species, high quality soils, geologic features and scenic resources.  Chapter 61B land in the natural, wild, or open categories does not have to be open to the public.

* For a comparison of permanent and temporary preservation options, click here.