Proposed bill seeks conservation easement incentive permanence

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 3, 2015 - The Land Trust Alliance, a national land conservation organization working to save the places people love by strengthening land conservation across America, today welcomed introduction of the Conservation Easement Incentive Act in Congress.

Championed by Sens. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Reps. Mike Kelly (R-Penn.) and Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), the bill would make permanent a tax incentive that encourages landowners to place a conservation easement on their land to protect important natural, scenic and historic resources for public benefit.

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“This incentive is a proven success, making conservation a real and affordable option for many farmers, ranchers and other landowners since 2006,” said Rand Wentworth, the Alliance's president. “We applaud the steps Sens. Heller and Stabenow and Reps. Kelly and Thompson are taking to make permanent a law that makes possible local, landowner-drive conservation to protect important lands.”

Because the tax incentive has periodically expired and must be renewed, Wentworth said it's crucial the tax incentive achieve permanency so the conservation it facilitates can continue unhindered.

“Conservation easement donations went up more than 30 percent, to 1 million acres a year, as a result of this tax incentive,” Wentworth said. “But each time the incentive expires, conservation slows. This on-again, off-again approach is bad policy, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree with us. It's time to make these tax incentives permanent.”

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The incentive expired again Jan. 1. The Alliance, its members and allies strove in late 2014 to make permanent the conservation easement tax incentive as part of the bipartisan Supporting America's Charities Act.

That act fell short of the two-thirds support it needed from voting members to meet a procedural requirement. The final vote was 275-149, reflecting 65percent support. The Conservation Easement Incentive Act enjoys even broader support - 408 sitting members of Congress cosponsored or voted for similar legislation in previous years. Additionally, the Obama administration supports making the tax incentive permanent. In its fiscal year 2016 budget request, released Feb. 2, the administration affirmed its desire “to make permanent the temporary enhanced incentives for conservation easement contributions that expired on Dec. 31, 2014.”

About the Land Trust Alliance: Founded in 1982, the Land Trust Alliance is a national land conservation organization that works to save the places people need and love by strengthening land conservation across America. The Alliance represents 1,200 member land trusts supported by more than 100,000 volunteers and 5 million members nationwide. The Alliance is based in Washington, D.C. and operates several regional offices. More information about the Alliance is available at www.landtrustalliance.org.

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