Land trusts applaud Ohio Congressional vote on tax incentive
- Published: January 4, 2016
Ohio’s top land trusts, including Yellow Springs-based Tecumseh Land Trust, are applauding Congress’s vote to make permanent a federal tax incentive for those who preserve land with a conservation easement.
When landowners donate a conservation easement to permanently protect their land from future development, they give up part of the value of their property. The conservation easement tax incentive offsets some of that loss in property value, making conservation a viable option for more landowners.
In a strong bipartisan action, the House voted 318-109 and the Senate voted 65-33 to pass the bill that eliminated the expiration date on the enhanced incentive.
Krista Magaw, executive director of Tecumseh Land Trust, which has preserved 144 properties and 25,000 acres in southwestern Ohio, said, “We really appreciate Sen. Portman’s commitment on this important policy. We’re glad that Sen. Brown and so many of our U.S. Representatives have come on board as well. Privately conserved lands benefit our communities and safeguard our clean water supply. To top it off, the land stays on the tax rolls, and there are no ongoing management costs to the taxpayer.”
A conservation easement is a legal agreement in which a private landowner can permanently retire the development rights to his or her property, thereby preserving natural resources and keeping farm, forest and ranch lands in productive use. Future owners also will be bound by the easement’s terms, ensuring the property remains as it was when protected.
The enhanced conservation easement tax incentive enables landowners to deduct a larger portion of their income over a longer period of time; under previous law, they received little or no benefit for donating what may be their family’s biggest asset.
The incentive was first passed in 2006 and the pace of land conservation increased by about 33 percent, exceeding one million acres per year. It expired in 2011, and Congress has had to enact short-term extensions ever since then. When the provision expired at the end of 2014, the result was a 50 percent drop in conservation easement donations across much of the country, according to the Land Trust Alliance, a national conservation organization representing over 1,100 land trusts.