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ITHACA, NY – The Finger Lakes Land Trust, a non-profit conservation organization serving the 12-county Finger Lakes Region, last week praised a bipartisan congressional vote that makes permanent a federal tax incentive supporting land conservation.
Landowners, local communities, and the public will directly benefit from the incentive that encourages landowners to place a conservation easement on their land to protect important natural, scenic and historic resources. The Finger Lakes Land Trust was among the 1,100 land trusts to support the incentive through a collaborative, multi-year campaign that was led by the Land Trust Alliance, the national land conservation organization that led the campaign for permanence.
“This incentive will help landowners maintain the integrity of their property while continuing traditional uses such as farming and forestry,” said Land Trust Executive Director Andrew Zepp. “Conservation easements are a cost effective and flexible tool that allows the land to remain in private ownership. We already hold more than 100 easements across the Finger Lakes and this incentive will allow us to protect more land that is vital to the future of our lakes and to our region.”
“The importance of this vote – and this incentive – cannot be overstated,” said Rand Wentworth, the president of the Land Trust Alliance. “This is the single greatest legislative action in decades to support land conservation. It states, unequivocally, that we as a nation treasure our lands and must conserve their many benefits for all future generations.”
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 has helped bring about the conservation of more than 2 million acres of America’s natural outdoor heritage. The incentive grants certain tax benefits to landowners who donate 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 in private ownership and on the tax rolls. In New York, easement donors may also be eligible for a property tax credit provided by the state.
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 2 Independents. The agreement announced this week additionally encourages donations to food banks and facilitates charitable deductions from IRAs.
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