Major Conservation Legislation Passed by Congress Will Have Local Benefits
The Maryland Environmental Trust praises a bipartisan congressional vote that makes permanent a federal tax incentive supporting land conservation.
Farmers, ranchers and the public will directly benefit from the incentive that encourages landowners to place a conservation easement on their property to protect important natural, scenic and historic resources. The Maryland Environmental Trust was among the 1,100 land trusts to support the incentive through a collaborative, multi-year campaign.
“This is a momentous vote,” Maryland Environmental Trust Director Bill Leahy said. “I’m excited to see this legislation pass. It will give a huge boost to private landowners all across the country, and in Maryland, who are seeking to preserve their family land and way of life for their children and our communities that depend on them.”
In a strong bipartisan action, the House voted 318-109 and the Senate voted 65-33 to pass the bills that included the tax incentive.
First enacted as a temporary provision in 2006, the incentive is directly responsible for conserving more than two million acres of America’s natural outdoor heritage. The incentive grants certain tax benefits to landowners who sign a conservation easement. Such private, voluntary agreements with local land trusts permanently limit uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. Lands placed into conservation easements can continue to be farmed, hunted or used for other specified purposes. The lands also remain on county tax rolls, strengthening local economies.
Once signed into law, the incentive will be applied retroactively to Jan. 1, 2015. An earlier version of the incentive expired Dec. 31, 2014.
The incentive advanced through Congress as part of the America Gives More Act, a package of tax incentives to encourage charitable giving. It passed the House earlier this year, 279-137. A standalone version of the incentive, the Conservation Easement Incentive Act, earned 52 Senate sponsors this year, including 26 Democrats, 24 Republicans and two Independents. The agreement announced this week additionally encourages donations to food banks and facilitates charitable deductions from IRAs.
The Maryland Environmental Trust is a unit of the Department of Natural Resources and is governed by a citizen board of trustees. The trust holds more than 1,080 easements totaling around 133,000 acres in Maryland. For more information, visit dnr.maryland.gov/met.