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New York State Enacts a First-in-the-Nation Tax Credit for Conservation Easements

For Immediate Release

For the past 6 years, the Land Trust Alliance and New York’s 80+ land trusts have been working hard to create a state tax incentive for conservation. In late April, our efforts finally paid off:  New York’s Conservation Easement Tax Credit officially became part of the State tax code.

Beginning next year, this innovative credit will give New York State landowners whose land is restricted by a conservation easement an annual refund of 25% of the property taxes paid on that land, up to $5,000 per year. It is available to all owners of easement-restricted land, regardless of when the easement was created, provided that the easement was wholly or partially donated to a land trust or a governmental agency.

Land trusts tell us that the Conservation Tax Credit will create a huge incentive for conservation all across the state because it:

  • Removes one of the most significant barriers to easement donations in NYS - the lack of property tax relief on easement-restricted lands;

  • Enables landowners with modest incomes, such as retirees and farmers, to conserve their land without sacrificing financial security;

  • Provides a powerful motivator for landowners to abide by the terms of their easements;

  • Runs with the land so that successor owners will benefit from it as well as the original easement donors. This not only recognizes the ongoing public benefits of private land conservation, but also helps ensures that new owners, too, will comply with their easements.

And, importantly, the Conservation Tax Credit does not reduce local property tax revenues, so there is no negative impact on town and county budgets. 

No other state has a tax incentive that will appeal to so many landowners and provide such lasting benefits. In the words of one land trust executive director, “This is a huge boon for conservation in our state!”

We thank Land Trust Alliance’s New York Advisory Board and scores of land trusts across the state who contributed to this success. With the Governor on board and bipartisan support from Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli and Senator Carl Marcellino, other legislators rallied round the proposal. Key conservation allies lent a hand, including The Nature Conservancy, the League of Conservation Voters, Scenic Hudson, the Open Space Institute, Environmental Defense, American Farmland Trust, Adirondack Council, the New York Farm Bureau, Adirondack Landowners Association, New York Audubon, Environmental Advocates, Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Palisades Interstate Commission, New York Parks and Trails, and the Trust for Public Land. Many thanks to all who helped.

But as this campaign ends, a new one begins: we must now help the Department of Taxation and Finance draft regulations to implement the new tax credit so that it is fairly administered, easily accessible to qualified applicants, and truly achieves its objectives. Watch for updates as we work to make this pioneering tax incentive a model for the rest of the nation!

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