Rep. Mike Thompson Introduces Bill to Conserve Agricultural Lands and Open Spaces
251 Representatives support making the conservation easement incentive permanent
May 26, 2011 -
Congressmen Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Jim Gerlach (R-PA) today introduced the Conservation Easement Incentive Act, landmark legislation that would provide family farmers, ranchers, and other moderate-income landowners with a permanent incentive to donate development rights to their land. By providing tax benefits to landowners who choose conservation, the bill would help preserve our nation’s cherished farm lands and open spaces for future generations. The bill has received broad bipartisan support in the House of Representatives, with 251 original co-sponsors.
Under Congressmen Thompson and Gerlach’s bill, landowners who donate a conservation easement would maintain ownership and management of the land, but forgo their rights to develop the land in the future. The Conservation Easement Incentive Act would make permanent a tax incentive for donating development rights that will otherwise expire at the end of 2011. Eliminating this ever-changing deadline will give more farmers, ranchers, and forest owners the assurance they need to choose land conservation over development.
“Tax incentives can be a powerful tool to help green our economy and protect our natural resources,” said Rep. Thompson. “Conservation easements have been particularly effective, encouraging landowners to conserve millions of acres of farm lands and scenic open spaces. By making this important conservation tool permanent, my bill would help preserve even more land for future generations.”
“It is not at all uncommon that putting together a conservation easement can take several years, and the uncertainty created by one or two year extensions makes it difficult for landowners to know what the tax consequences will be at the end of the process," said Mendocino Land Trust Board President Winston Bowen. "I have been working on one project to permanently protect over 450 acres of oak woodlands that has taken two and one-half years so far, and could take another year. Taxpayers need the consistency in the law that Congressman Thompson's bill will provide."
"Congressman Mike Thompson is a national champion for land protection and the preservation of our natural resources,” said Joel Tranmer, CEO of the Land Trust of Napa County. “His tireless efforts to make conservation tax incentives permanent have been critical to the conservation movement in this country. These benefits are helping the Land Trust of Napa County to permanently protect vineyard lands, family farms and scenic open space."
“The Northcoast Regional Land Trust is thankful that Congressman Thompson is leading the charge to save this important conservation tool,” said Lindsay Magnuson, Executive Director of the Northcoast Regional Land Trust. “We have seen firsthand the dramatic impact that the incentive has had in helping landowners voluntarily and permanently conserve farmlands, wildlife habitat and open space in Northern California and across the nation.”
“Conservation easements are an essential, cost-effective tool in achieving our mission of protecting the scenic, natural, agricultural and open landscapes of Sonoma County — particularly working landscapes,” said Sonoma Land Trust Executive Director Ralph Benson. “We appreciate Congressman Mike Thompson's leadership in private land conservation not only here at home, but also throughout the nation.”
“Yolo Land Trust applauds the leadership of Congressman Thompson in the effort to make this important conservation tool permanent," said Michele Clark, Executive Director of the Yolo Land Trust. “This tax incentive will help landowners permanently conserve farmland, wildlife habitat, and open space in Yolo County."
Specifically, the Conservation Easement Incentive Act would help landowners of modest means choose conservation by:
The Conservation Easement Incentive Act has been endorsed by the Land Trust Alliance, Ducks Unlimited, National Wildlife Federation, National Cattleman’s Beef Association, American Forest Foundation, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, and over fifty other groups.
- Raising the maximum deduction a donor can take for donating a conservation easement from 30% of their adjusted gross income (AGI) in any year to 50%;
- Allowing qualified farmers and ranchers to deduct up to 100% of their AGI; and
- Increasing the number of years over which a donor can take deductions from 6 to 16 years.