July 10, 2020

Landowner Donates 298-Acre Conservation Easement in Santa Monica Mountains



Landowner Donates 298-Acre Conservation Easement in Santa Monica Mountains

Stunning view of the Santa Monica Mountains during "golden hour" at sunset.

A Stokes Canyon landowner has donated a conservation easement on 298 acres of nearly pristine habitat to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA), an agency that preserves and manages open space, parkland and wildlife habitat. The easement keeps the land as permanent open space.

The MRCA accepted the donation from Malibu Valley Land, LLC, which had previously sought to build 53 homes on the acreage.

“The easement is the largest, by far, ever handled by the MRCA,” said Paul Edelman, chief of natural resources and planning for the agency. “The average easement is only about five acres.”

The 298 acres are located near the intersection of Mulholland Highway and Las Virgenes Road, across the highway from King Gillette Ranch and the visitors’ center of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The property is part of a 6.85-square-mile habitat block undisturbed by any paved road. More than 500 oak trees are found on the acreage, which is visible from nearby public areas, including King Gillette Ranch, Malibu Creek State Park and Mulholland Highway. The open space provides potential habitat for every native mammal and reptile found in the mountains, as well as a majority of the amphibian and bird species.

Conservation easements are voluntary agreements with a public agency or land trust in which the landowner releases some—but not all—rights to the land. Such easements protect wildlife habitats and open spaces from development, but the property remains in the hands of the private landowner.

Brian Boudreau, co-owner of Malibu Valley Land, LLC, will continue to use the existing horse trails and trail rest/picnic sites on the easement, an activity the MRCA expects will have minimal effect on habitat values.

Advantages to the donor of an easement may include tax reductions, income tax credits, lower estate taxes, lower property taxes, cash benefits and the knowledge that he or she is protecting water resources, preserving biodiversity and maintaining the beauty of the neighborhood.

“Most people donate conservation easements for the tax advantage and for protecting land adjacent to their property without having to give up ownership,” said Edelman. “Other benefits include privacy and exclusive equestrian use.”

The Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains (RCDSMM) advises private landowners on the potential benefits of easement donation and can provide conservation planning services to optimize post-donation value.

"With the high land values we have in the mountains, owners can reap significant income and/or estate tax benefits through donations of development rights that they may have no intention of ever exercising,” said Clark Stevens, executive director of the RCDSMM.

“A properly designed conservation easement plan (an owner retains limited development rights while donating others) may ultimately protect nearly as much income as would be produced after the costly, risky, and taxable process required to fully develop land. The RCDSMM hopes that “more of our mountain landowners take advantage of conservation easements as a land use and estate planning tool for their own benefit, as well as for the health of our habitats."

The RCDSMM works with public and private landowners to conserve natural resources throughout the Santa Monica Mountains and environs. For information on granting a conservation easement on your property, contact the RCDSMM at (818) 597-8627 or info@rcdsmm.org.