Land Preservation

Preserved land provides the whole community of people and nature with benefits. Protecting parcels in the maritime forest preserves ground water and habitat for native plants and animals.  Over 200 bird species use the Smith Island Complex (Bald Head, Middle and Bluff islands) a feeding, nesting ground or a stopover point in migration.
Smith Island Land Trust Post

The island is an essential nesting location for endangered sea turtle populations and a home to creatures like River Otters, White-tail Deer, and Red Foxes.  Properties in the dunes offer valuable buffers against hurricane and winter storm damage. The forests create a thick canopy that shears of hurricane force winds and provide food and shelter for native and migrating species.  Marsh properties buffer flooding from storm surge and are an important boundary between fresh and salt water lenses.  Protecting marsh properties keeps our saltmarsh teaming with fish and oysters.  Healthy waterways are perfect for recreation and boating. 
Today, as the land preservation arm of the Bald Head Island Conservancy, the Smith Island Land Trust has preserved in perpetuity over 25 additional properties, all of which have been deemed to have significant environmental and/or ecological value to the area. The value of donated lands preserved by the Land Trust now totals well in excess of $10 million.   

With no more large parcels available for acquisition within the Smith Island complex, the Smith Island Land Trust (SILT) now focuses its efforts on the preservation of individual lots, in the pursuit of lower development density, enhanced ecological habitats and improved scenic values. Through the utilization of parcel donations, bargain sales and/or the placement of conservation easements on such properties, substantial benefits are available to those who collaborate with the Land Trust to preserve such properties.  Click here for a map of SILT properties throughout the Smith Island Complex

Why Donate?  

Smith Island Land Trust

Preservation and Protection

  • Preserve ground water and habitat for native plants and animals
  • Buffer against hurricane and winter storm damage
  • Prevent extreme flooding from storm surge
  • Preserve healthy waterways
  • Promote Living in Harmony with Nature

Personal Reasons to Donate Land

  • Create a permanent privacy buffer
  • Protect natural viewscapes
  • Reduce or eliminate property taxes
  • Lower estate taxes (value of the gift is removed from the amount subject to estate taxes, which start at 37% and rise to 55% on larger estates)
  • Income tax deduction (for the fair market value of the gift as determined by a certified, unbiased appraiser) 


Donation is the simplest and most direct method of preserving land.  There may be tax advantages to land donations. You must rely on the advice of your accountant and/or tax attorney. 

Here on Bald Head, the Smith Island Land Trust has, as of February 2015, accepted 26 donated parcels. In some cases, these lots were purchased to protect a view or to provide a privacy buffer for the donor's residence.


Unlike donation, a conservation easement allows the donor to retain ownership and pass the land to family members.  The IRS usually limits total charitable contributions to 30% of the adjusted gross income, but excesses can be carried forward for five additional years, with the 30% limitation each year. With marginal federal rates as high as 38.6%, state income taxes, and the estate tax bite, total tax savings can exceed the loss of value by granting an easement. Depending on the location of the property, North Carolina residents may be able to take a tax credit of 20% of the appraised value as a dollar-for-dollar reduction of the North Carolina tax liability. This credit can also be carried forward.

The conservation easement is then a permanent deed amendment on the property if sold. The IRS allows a tax deduction equal to the loss of value due to the restrictions, usually 60% to 80% of the fair market value.

SILT Land Donation Criteria

The purpose of the Smith Island Land Trust, Inc. is the preservation of land within the Smith Island Complex.

Preservation priorities include:

  • Property that has significant maritime forest
  • Property is located in the shear zone of the maritime forest
  • Property with endangered or rare vegetation
  • Property with habitat for sea turtle nesting
  • Property with habitat for shorebird nesting
  • Property that provides for public access to natural areas
  • Marsh property

The officers and staff of the Land Trust will be happy to answer any questions you may have, and help you through the process.  
Simply call the administrative office at 910-457-0089 for assistance.

Where else can you create a legacy, help the island you love, feel good about yourself, and save thousands in taxes!!?

Land Trust Links:
For more SILT information, contact a member of the SILT Staff or Board:

Dr. G. Chris Shank
Executive Director

Darice Voight
Administrative Support

Smith Island Land Trust Board of Directors

Lynn Barnard, SILT Board President
Marianna Fitz-Hugh Secretary
Slaughter Fitz-Hugh Treasurer
Elayne Bennett
Alice Horton
Alan Reyner
Melanie Robbins
Shawn Smith
Howard Walker BHI Conservancy President