Thanks to several National Aggregates Association (NAA) members, producers now have a way to avoid conflicts in managing the environmental aspects of their reclamation projects and their not-to-be-mined nature and conservation areas. The Trust for Resource Allocation and Conservation (TRAC) now provides producers an opportunity to better manage their aboveground resources. They also have a support group of experts to help deal with sensitive ecological issues.
According to Charlie Hawkins, NAA's president and a member of TRAC's board of directors, TRAC is a natural extension of a producer's commitment to the local community. TRAC offers producers an opportunity to contribute land to an organization that has a goal of proper management in creating and protecting the industry's natural legacy.
Designed for proactive land stewardship, many environmental groups now use their land-management authority as a conservation tool, especially effective against the threat of urban sprawl and "unwanted" development. "Producers have special concerns and needs when considering land trust donations, and TRAC will have a team of experts to help them work through the process and properly manage environmentally important property," says Bob Agee, president of TRAC's board of directors and president of Chaney Enterprises/Campbell S&G, Crofton, Md.
TRAC is its own organization, separate and independent from both the NAA and its recent merger partner, the National Stone Association. Current members include experts on land-use management, environmental engineering, endangered species management, land-trust law, and aggregate mining.
Fellow board member Dr. Richard Hisert, project director for construction materials and mining at Earth Tech Inc., Albany, N.Y., emphasizes that TRAC is more than just a mining-oriented organization. As TRAC grows, it will encompass a broad array of land uses from sensitive areas, plant and animal species habitat, buffer areas, historic sites, mitigation sites, stream corridors, etc.
Producers should consider participating in a trust to avoid problems in meeting regulatory requirements for mitigation sites, to provide for long-term environmental management obligations, to minimize problems and help maintain concentration on their main business, to gain possible financial benefits, and to foster good community relations.When a company donates property to the trust, it relinquishes certain ownership rights and responsibilities. The trust managers then assume the role of conservation land manager. Depending on the goals of the property owner, the trust may own the land, it may administer a conservation easement on the property, or may act as a broker between the producer and other landowners in working out an area-wide natural resources conservation plan.
Donating conservation land to a professionally managed trust has two major advantages. First, experts will deal with the unique property and long-term management issues associated with environmentally important areas. Second, the producer eliminates a potentially adversarial relationship with local environmental organizations.
Donating land to TRAC is not a simple process of just sending in a signed deed. Each potential donation undergoes a strict review by TRAC's board members. Each potential donor submits a completed questionnaire that describes the property and lists why the property should be considered a natural legacy. The producer is also required to outline any potential environmental concerns. This front-ended review process fulfills the trust's legal obligations while keeping it as unburdensome as possible.
By donating the land to the trust, the producer may lessen his tax burden as well as have a possible charitable deduction for the value of the property. However, the main reason a company should consider using TRAC is to create a win-win position within its local community.
TRAC will consider all types of donations. Contributions are not limited to land. Financial support is needed to assist with operation and management of the trust. Contributions from individuals and corporations are needed in running the trust and are tax-deductible.