Big Push to Pass Conservation Easement Incentive Act (S.330)

Sisters Jane Preyer and Kathleen ScottLand Trusts throughout the nation are making a big push for Congress to pass the Conservation Easement Incentive Act (S.330). Currently the bill has 49 Senate cosponsors — evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans — including support from Senators Bill Nelson of Florida and Johnny Isakson of Georgia.

S. 330 would make permanent key tax incentives for private landowners who donate conservation easements. Since the incentives were enacted in 2006, they have been extended regularly, but only temporarily, by Congress. Just such a limited extension was approved by the Senate Finance Committee in July. Land trusts believe that it is time to improve on that, by making these powerful conservation provisions permanent, and giving landowners certainty to plan and conserve.

Passed overwhelmingly by the House of Representatives, as part of a charities tax package in February, S. 330 also enjoys broad organizational support:

CONSERVATIONISTS: The Nature Conservancy, Conservation Fund, Trust for Public Land, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Wilderness Society, Land Trust Alliance.

FARMERS & FORESTERS: American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, American Forest Foundation, National Alliance of Forest Owners, American Farmland Trust, Hardwood Federation.

HUNTERS & FISHERS: National Rifle Association, National Sports Shooting Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, Izaak Walton League, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, Mule Deer Foundation.

HISTORIC PRESERVATIONISTS: National Trust for Historic Preservation, Civil War Trust, Scenic America.

Tall Timbers supports the Enhanced Easements Incentives as they have helped permanently conserve nearly 130,000 acres of forestland, scenic landscapes, and wildlife habitat in the greater Red Hills Region.

The incentives are good public policy because:

  • Tax incentives are a cost-effective way to protect land. By encouraging donated easements, every dollar of tax incentives leverages $2.80 worth of conservation.   

  • The budget impact is small. This incentive has widespread, lasting impact on land conservation but only a minor impact on the federal budget—$1.2 billion over ten years.

  • This incentive makes the tax system fairer. The enhanced incentive allows working farmers and ranchers, as well as forest landowners with modest incomes, to realize more of the value of the tax deduction.  

  • Easements are a voluntary, private-sector approach to conservation. Landowners and community-supported nonprofits take the lead, rather than the government.

The goal is to get all Senators to cosponsor this important legislation! Please contact the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. But don’t just leave a message at the front desk, ask to speak with the senate staffer who handles tax issues.

Thank you for your support and help in getting this important federal legislation across the finish line.

About the photo: Sisters Jane Preyer and Kathleen Reid-Scott (pictured above), and their brother Dr. James Reid III, donated a conservation easement to Tall Timbers for their family’s forestland that protects the Ochlockonee River Watershed. For landowners, donating a conservation easement is a way to conserve places they love. It’s also a major financial decision. When landowners donate a conservation easement, they give up part of the value of their property — often their family’s biggest asset. Tax incentives offset some of that loss in property value, making conservation a viable option for more landowners. 

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