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Conservation Toolkit|U.S. Forest Service | Environment and Natural Resources

Land Conservation and Acquisition Tools

Fee Simple Land Acquisition

Land acquisition includes the “fee simple” purchase of a parcel of land. A fee simple purchase transfers full ownership of the property, including the underlying title, to another party. Fee simple land acquisition may also be the result of a donation, with the landowner realizing tax benefits from the donation. Sometimes a combination of purchase and donation occurs, resulting in a sale of land for below market value and the landowner donating a portion of the property’s value to the buyer. This type of exchange is referred to as a “bargain sale” and benefits the donor because they can deduct the value of the gifted portion of land from their federal income taxes. Under this scenario, landowners enjoy direct economic gains from the sale of their land and potentially from the tax benefits of donating a portion of their land.

Fee title purchases are voluntary transactions between a landowner (seller) and purchaser (buyer). A fee title is a full interest in real property. In granting a sale of land, the landowner generally retains no ownership of the property and gives up all rights. The party that holds the fee title, whether it is a private individual, public agency, or a non-profit organization, has a long-term responsibility to administer and monitor the title.


The process of fee simple land acquisition for conservation purposes is usually facilitated by a non-profit organization, such as a land trust, because these types of organizations often have access to funding for land purchases.

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