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April 21 • 02:03 AM
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Options to conserve land available



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July 22, 2009
Editor's note: The following was submitted by Bill Vandercook, of Lapeer. Vandercook is the founder and managing director of the Landowners Planning and Resource Group, LLC, home of the 'One Step' planning program. For more information, contact Vandercook at (810)614-0899 or bvandercook@gmail.com.

I've been involved in the conservation and preservation scene in Michigan for more than 20 years as a hunting guide, wing-shooting instructor and worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the conservation districts and as a real estate broker. In that time, I've personally witnessed the short-sighted and unnecessary subdividing that creates a checkerboard of land uses and degrades habitats which impact wildlife and agricultural businesses. Urban sprawl has created its own set of problems.

We were subdividing and developing land eight times faster than our population growth. That's unsustainable from both an economic and environmental standpoint.

For a long time, landowners have been suffering from an information gap. Farmers, hunt clubs, co-ops, recreational landowners, timber operators and other working landowners are often not fully aware of all their rights including what tax exemptions or deferrals are available or how to qualify for dozens of state, local and federal programs.

People are making million-dollar decisions without all of the facts in hand. There are more options than just the three D's—divide, develop and donate.

Creating an action plan, with help from a landowner consultant, is ideal. Everything from one's current tax status, parcel description and classification to the landowner's specific goals, both near and long-term, should be considered as part of the plan. That information can then be matched against government programs, statutes, zoning laws and taxing authorities.

There are strategies to reach a goal, whether that's squeezing more profit from working lands or leaving a favorite swimming hole for the grandkids.

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