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Peter Niles

Landowner

“I made a living here farming. My dad farmed this land before me…and who knows how many people farmed it before him. The next generation will be able to try to do the same. It’s something that you know - something you can talk with others about…milking, crops, cows, equipment, production – something in your blood,” Peter Niles as he completed the easement process on his 119 acre property in the Town of White Creek, Washington County, New York, August 2006.

Peter Niles still makes a living in agriculture, even though he rents his own fertile fields along State Route 22 to a neighboring dairy farmer. Mr. Niles repairs equipment at Salem Farm Supply during the week and helps the Chamber Brothers Farm outside Salem on weekends. In his spare time, he cuts and sells a little firewood from his woodland. It was a poster featuring the Vermont Land Trust at Salem Farm Supply that caught his attention and introduced him to the concept of permanent land conservation. Concerned that even if he sold his land to a farmer, a future generation might sell it to a developer, he started asking around about land trusts and conservation. An acquaintance gave him a newsletter from the Agricultural Stewardship Association and he made a discreet e-mail inquiry to start the process.

ASA’s contributors enabled the nonprofit organization to offer modest financial compensation in exchange for a conservation easement on Mr. Niles’ property. His arrangement with ASA is called a bargain sale, part donation and part sale, based on the value of the easement according to an appraisal. The donation portion of a bargain sale can be claimed as a charitable deduction for income tax purposes. Furthermore, New York State offers an income tax credit for a portion of the property taxes for owners of properties with conservation easements that have been fully or partially donated.

Teri Ptacek, ASA’s Executive Director, commented “We commend Mr. Niles for his generous gift contributing to the wellbeing of our community. Our economy, environment, culture, and quality of life all depend on our farms and forests, our working landscape. Protecting them will ensure that they are always there to sustain us.”

Mr. Niles’ level fields on the west side of the highway will remain farmland and the wooded hillside that contributes to the scenic character of the travel corridor on the east side will remain forested. Peter Niles, describing his intentions for pursuing a conservation easement, said “I don’t want to see houses here. Conservation is a good way to hang on to this farmland. If I ever decide to sell it, it’s still going to be farmland.”

Snowmobiling was another motivating factor in Mr. Niles decision to put an easement on his land. “I like snowmobiling. I enjoy seeing them come across the flats and head for the hills. If houses were built here, chances are the snowmobile trail would be interrupted. This way, there’s a better chance the trail won’t be broken.”


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