Major Conservation Legislation Congress Passed Will Have Local Benefits

For Immediate Release:  December 22, 2015


Bolton Landing, NY – The Lake George Land Conservancy (LGLC), a nonprofit land trust based out of Bolton Landing, New York, praises a bipartisan congressional vote made December 18, 2015, that makes permanent a federal tax incentive supporting land conservation.

Both landowners and the public will directly benefit from an enhanced federal tax incentive that encourages the use of conservation easements as a tool to protect important natural, scenic and historic resources. LGLC was among the 1,100 land trusts to support the enhanced incentive through a collaborative, multi-year campaign.

“This vote is a monumental achievement for conservation, nationally and locally,” said LGLC Executive Director Jamie Brown. “Conservation easements are powerful tools that enable landowners to retain full ownership of their land, while providing permanent protection of its natural resources. LGLC currently manages 12 easements, including 840 acres, 300 feet of lake shoreline, and thousands of feet along stream corridors.”

“This enhanced federal tax incentive program rewards those who wish to protect their land for future generations,” continued Brown. “Additionally, these donated easements, which remain under private ownership and are held and monitored by LGLC, benefit the public through the protection of important resources and special places throughout the Lake George watershed, reducing stormwater runoff, erosion, habitat and viewshed fragmentation, and in some cases providing public recreation opportunities. All the while, the protected land remains on the county and town tax rolls and continues to contribute to the municipal tax base. This is a conservation solution that works for everyone.”

LGLC is a member of the Land Trust Alliance, the national land conservation organization that led the campaign for permanence.

“The importance of this vote – and this incentive – cannot be overstated,” said Rand Wentworth, the Alliance’s president. “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 enhanced federal tax incentive.

First enacted as a temporary provision in 2006, the incentive is directly responsible for conserving more than 2 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, if appropriate, responsibly harvested for timber, or used for other specified purposes. The lands also remain on town and 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 2 Independents. The agreement announced this week additionally encourages donations to food banks and facilitates charitable deductions from IRAs.