Leave A Legacy - Land Donation

Land conservation benefits you, your community and future generations. While the landowner holds title to the land, actually it belongs to all the people because… civilization itself rests upon the soil.  – Thomas Jefferson

Protecting your land through gift and estate planning creates an enduring legacy for your family and benefits the public and the state’s natural resources. Conserving a property is a very personal decision that involves your financial and tax circumstances, the land itself, and your vision for the future of the property.  Be sure to discuss your land donation ideas with Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) staff before making your final decisions. 

Because each situation is unique, KDWPT offers several means to help you achieve your dream of protecting an important part of your heritage. Some of the conservation techniques listed here involve project costs and long-term stewardship expenses. How these costs are covered depends on individual project circumstances.

Answering these questions may help you decide on a technique that fits your needs:

  • Why do you want to protect your land?
  • Do you want to protect all or part of it?
  • How do you want it cared for in the future?
  • Do you want the land to be protected in private ownership or would you consider transferring title to a conservation organization, your community or a public agency?
  • Should you consider a sale or donation or combination of the two?
  • Are tax implications (income, property, estate, gift) important to you?
  • Do you want to act immediately, over a period of years, or through your will?
  • How would your actions affect your family?
Direct Donation of Land

An outright gift of land without compensation is one of the most generous legacies you can leave to generations yet to come. Throughout Kansas, there are parks, rivers, timbered and scenic open spaces that the public enjoys because of the long-term vision of conservation-minded landowners. Donating your land can have many benefits for you, including: 

  • Assures your land is protected forever and will be managed consistently over time
  • Releases you from the expense and the responsibility of managing the land
  • Is relatively easy and quick to accomplish   
Life Estate (Donation of a Remainder Interest)

You can donate land and continue to live on it during your lifetime with an arrangement known as a “life estate,” “gift of a remainder interest” or a “gift of land with a reserved life estate.” With this gift, you and your beneficiaries reserve the right to live on and use the property during your lifetimes. At the end of the specified life interests, full title and control of the property transfers to the department. Your property is permanently conserved, and family members may also be included in the life estate are among the benefits of this type of gift. 

Bequest or Living Trust

You may want to have maximum flexibility during your lifetime and, after your lifetime, donate property or a conservation easement through your will or living trust. 

Blended Sale and Donation

With this approach, you can sell a property or conservation easement to the department at less than full market value and donate the remaining value. This approach combines the income-producing benefits of a land sale with the potential benefits of a donation. The sale is contingent on the ability of the department to fund the purchase. 

Conservation Easement

KDWPT is not actively seeking conservation easements, so we would be happy to refer you to an appropriate conservation organization to help you with this option. 

A conservation easement protects the land permanently while keeping it in private ownership. You can specify permitted uses of the property, such as agriculture, forestry, recreation or other open space uses. The easement limits or prohibits certain activities like industrial, commercial and residential development.

Conservation easements are designed to conserve a property’s important resource values. They may cover portions of a property or the entire parcel, and they are legally binding on all future owners. The value of the easement is based on before and after appraisals – the first assesses the land’s value before the conservation easement is in place; the second assesses its value afterwards. The difference between the two appraisals is the value of the conservation easement.

Donating a conservation easement is a way to retain ownership and use of your land while preserving its natural and historical values. A conservation easement is flexible and allows you to chart the future use of your land, even after the sale of the land or your death. Your concerns about public access or future uses of the land may be addressed when you work on the details of your easement.

Qualifying Land

Gifts of land to KDWPT will be gratefully accepted if they meet one or more of these criteria: 

  • Lie within the boundaries of KDWPT projects;
  • Encompass old growth forests, native prairies, streams, undisturbed lake shore or stream banks;
  • Adjoin protected natural areas;
  • Contain habitat for endangered or threatened plants or animals and/or have unique scenic, historic, geographic or archaeological features
  • Possess potential to enhance outdoor recreational opportunities

If you offer land that we cannot accept because of its location or restrictions on uses we would be happy to refer you to an appropriate private, non-profit conservation organization or local unit of government that may be able to accept your gift.

For more information on land donations, contact

Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism

Office of the Secretary
1020 S. Kansas Ave., Ste. 200
Topeka, KS 66612