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Legislative Victory for Land Conservation

August 4, 2006| Washington, D.C.

For Immediate Release

Contact: Jim Wyerman
202-638-4725 x 310

Washington, D.C. - New land conservation tax benefits for family farmers and ranchers are included in just-passed pension reform legislation, now awaiting the President’s signature.  The new law will combine an adjusted tax incentive for land conservation with common sense reforms to ensure the public benefit of conservation donations. 

“This law will help landowners and land trusts protect important lands across America,” said Land Trust Alliance President Rand Wentworth, “We want to thank Senators Charles Grassley, Max Baucus and Rick Santorum, who all worked hard to get this through, House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas, and the many other leaders who helped make this happen.”

The new law extends the carry-forward period for tax deductions for voluntary conservation agreements from 5 to 15 years and raises the cap on those deductions from 30 percent of a donor's adjusted gross income to 50 percent - and to 100 percent for qualifying farmers and ranchers.  This allows ranchers, farmers and other modest-income landowners to get a much larger benefit for donating very valuable development rights to their land.

 “I know many ranchers who want to protect the land that they have lived and worked on for generations, but need some help to make it happen,“ said John Lunt, a family rancher and conservationist from Wyoming.  “Better conservation tax incentives will help my friends and neighbors preserve their land without putting their family’s economic future at risk.”

Voluntary conservation agreements, also known as conservation easements, are an important tool for land conservation.  When landowners donate voluntary conservation agreements, they protect resources important to the public by giving up future development rights, while retaining ownership and management of the land. 
 
The new law also protects the public interest by including a significant tightening of the rules for appraisals of all donated property, including stiff penalties for inflated appraisals.

The Land Trust Alliance recently launched a training and accreditation program that will give a seal-of-approval to local land trusts who work directly with private landowners to protect important lands in their communities. 

In addition, the Internal Revenue Service has stepped up its scrutiny of land conservation donations, creating a task force to focus on strategic ways for preventing abuses while supporting legitimate conservation practices.

“Congress, the IRS and the private-sector have all taken decisive action,” added Wentworth. “This three-pronged approach will solidify and build public confidence in the private land conservation system.”

The President is expected to sign the bill into law shortly.

The mission of the Land Trust Alliance is to promote voluntary land conservation by providing the strategic leadership, training, and resources needed by the nation’s 1,537 local and regional land trusts to succeed in conserving land for the benefit of communities and natural systems.  Land trusts are volunteer-led, local charities that accept private, voluntary donations of land, fulfilling landowners’ wishes to keep their land as it is for their children and future generations.  For more information, please visit www.lta.org.

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