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Menendez Honored for Land Conservation Efforts

October 7, 2008 | New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJ)

For immediate release

Contact:
Allison Mitchell
Policy Director
Phone: (908) 234-1225 x 107
E-mail: alison@njconservation.org

Menendez honored for land conservation efforts


Nework, NJ – U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) was honored by conservationists yesterday for his help in securing a two-year extension of a federal income tax incentive for preserving land. Alison Mitchell, policy director for New Jersey Conservation Foundation, presented Menendez with an award on behalf of New Jersey Conservation Foundation and America’s land trust and conservation community.

“Senator Menendez continues to be a staunch advocate for land preservation and environmental protection,” said Mitchell, who visited the senator’s office in Newark. “His assistance was critical in extending the conservation easement tax incentive in the 2008 Farm Bill, an important measure that helps New Jersey’s and America’s land trusts increase the pace of land conservation. The easement incentive is particularly important now in New Jersey, given that state preservation funding has not been renewed.”

“Protecting clean water and air, preserving recreational open spaces, and combating urban sprawl are important to ensuring a better quality of life for our communities, families, and children,” said Menendez. "The federal conservation easement tax incentive is a valuable tool in our fight to save open space."

A conservation easement is a legally enforceable agreement that preserves privately held open space to protect a variety of natural resources, including wildlife habitat, water, farmland and scenic viewsheds.
 
Conservation easements can be donated to qualified non-profit land trusts and government agencies that agree to monitor the land to ensure that the easement is not violated. Easement donors continue to own their land and control access to it; some conservation easements provide limited public access.

Landowners can receive a federal tax break for donating conservation easements or selling easements at a “bargain sale” (less than market value) price. Landowners receive a tax deduction for making what can amount to a substantial charitable gift, in addition to the knowledge that they are protecting lands that have significant benefits to their community.

The extended tax incentive raises the maximum deduction a donor can take for donating a conservation easement from 30 percent of their adjusted gross income (AGI) in any year to 50 percent; allows qualified farmers and ranchers to deduct up to 100 percent of their AGI; and increases the number of years over which a donor can take deductions from 6 to 16 years.

Many important properties in New Jersey have been donated or sold at prices significantly below their market value by landowners who value the preservation of our state’s natural heritage.

"Throughout my tenure in Congress," Senator Menendez added, "I have strongly supported programs that would protect our open spaces and trails, such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the National Park Service's Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program, which help to ensure that all of our outdoor spaces are adequately protected for years to come.”
 
The national Land Trust Alliance has worked with local land trusts across the country to help secure and build awareness of the conservation tax incentive among landowners, attorneys and tax advisors. For more information on how to donate a conservation easement, contact New Jersey Conservation Foundation at 908-234-1225.

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PHOTO CAPTION:
Senator Robert Menendez receives award from Alison Mitchell, left,
and Amy Hansen of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation



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