In 1964 we bought 160 acres of cut-over timberland as an investment that would not provide any return during our working lives, except in enjoyment, but that would provide valuable timber later. In enjoyment alone, our investment was returned many times over. My wife and I live in Chicago, and spending time in a place of our own in a wooded area of great beauty is important to us. As the forest re-grew on our property, we saw and loved the various stages. Especially the wild raspberries and strawberries.

On summer weekends we occasionally hear the shouts and screams of people as they reach the rapids while floating down the river that runs through our wooded land. We, too, have floated down the river to the first bridge, through rustic farmland.

When young, our children loved to catch polliwogs, frogs, toads, crayfish, and caterpillars. However, they have grown up and moved away, and are unlikely to use the land as we did. Our daughter suggested that we might want to donate the development rights to an organization that would keep the land from being used for whatever would bring the most money to whoever might own it next. Our son agreed. There is a great diversity of plant and animal life that would suffer from development or farming, or even logging. We let the neighbors hunt on our land, partly from friendship and partly because I have seen enough of the remains of deer that starved to death over the winter as their number exhausted the food supply. The neighbors are pleased that we want to keep the land protected.

We had considered permitting logging in accordance with sound forestry practices, but concluded that what we really wanted was for the land to fulfill its own ecological destiny. So we decided to prohibit logging, as well as farming, quarrying, mining, dumping, and real estate development of any sort. No other buildings are permitted except to replace the small prefabricated house that is now there; trees may be cut to prevent them from shading the solar panel that provides our electricity. Hunting and fishing and hiking are permitted.

I contacted Gathering Waters who put me in touch with North Central Conservancy Trust. Dr. Freeman, the president of that organization, was of great help in telling me about an appraiser and an organization that would conduct an inventory of natural resources. Both the appraisal and the inventory are necessary to get a deduction from federal taxable income for a gift of this sort. It turned out that the deduction (which is the amount by which the market value of the land is reduced by the easement) was about 40 percent of the value. Dr. Freeman also put me in touch with the organization's lawyer, and with him I worked out the wording of our easement. It is wise to consult your own lawyer and tax advisor as well, however.

Manly W. Mumford