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Giving Thanks for 170(h), Tell Transmission Planners Where Your Easements Are

Advocates Alert: November 23, 2010

Tell Congress to Celebrate 170(h) by Making the Enhanced Incentive Permanent

Thirty years ago, in a Thanksgiving season much like this one, a lame duck Congress was hard at work on a bill to extend expiring tax provisions.  The tax deduction for conservation easement donations created five years earlier was set to expire in 1981, so Congressman John Dingell (who still represents Michigan's 15th district) successfully inserted language to create a permanent easement incentive -- the language that is now section 170(h) of the tax code.

What a thing to be thankful for!  The passage of section 170(h) marked an important milestone in private-sector conservation.  Since December 1980, over a thousand land trusts have started all over the country and have used this provision to conserve about 11 million acres -- an area three times the size of Connecticut!

In 2006, Congress recognized that donation limits intended for wealthy individuals were instead preventing modest-income farmers, ranchers and forest owners from accessing the benefits of section 170(h).  So they created an enhanced easement incentive, which boosted the pace of easement donations by a third, to over a million acres a year.  But that provision expired at the end of 2009.

Just as a lame duck Congress created a permanent easement incentive in the 1980 tax extenders bill, we need your help urging this lame duck Congress to make the enhanced easement incentive permanent today.  We can think of no better way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of 170(h)!

This week, your Senators and Representatives are back in their districts and many will be hosting public events to celebrate Thanksgiving.  Call their district offices to find out about these events; they're your last chance to get face time before December's legislative sprint.

You'll find the latest news, talking points and fact sheets at www.lta.org/easementincentive.

Don't Want Transmission Towers on Your Easements? Tell Planners Where They Are!

Our work to ensure that new transmission lines avoid and mitigate for impacts to privately conserved land is paying off.  Working on behalf of the land trust community, the Land Trust Alliance recently secured a seat on the Stakeholder Steering Committee of the Eastern Interconnection Planning Collaborative and we're working with partners to influence the Western process as well.  We're excited to have a seat at the table and a commitment to consider privately conserved land, but now transmission planners need good data on lands they should avoid -- quickly!

As many land trusts have heard, the National Conservation Easement Database (NCED) is coming together for the first time, and this just one of many reasons to get your easement data included.  Transmission planners will be pulling data from the Protected Areas Database (PAD-US) and the NCED this winter.  If your easement data is not yet included in the NCED, please make every effort to get in touch with the project team by the end of November. They can even help digitize your easements. Read more.

Thanks for helping!


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February 12: The House successfully voted 279-137, demonstrating a supermajority (67%) of support, on H.R. 644, a package of charitable incentives including the conservation tax incentive.Now we need your help in the Senate to secure co-sponsors! Sens. Heller and Stabenow have requested land trusts’ assistance in asking senators to cosponsor S. 330, the Conservation Easement Incentive Act. Learn more »

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