From the Land Trust Alliance in Washington, D.C.
On Feb. 2, 2015, a federal bill was introduced by Sens. Dean Heller (R-NV) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Reps. Mike Kelly (R-PA) and Mike Thompson (D-CA), that 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.
“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,” he 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.”
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 65% 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 December 31, 2014.”
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