Fiscal Cliff Deal Includes Good News for Local Land Preservation Efforts
Media, PA (January 14, 2013) – Congress’ “fiscal cliff” deal renewed a tax incentive for private landowners—especially working family farmers and ranchers—who preserve their land with a voluntary conservation agreement. The incentive, which had expired at the end of 2011, was a boon to private conservation efforts while it was in effect between 2006 and 2011.
“Nationwide, the incentive is credited with a 30 percent increase in the number of acres preserved each year,” noted Molly Morrison, president of the non-profit Natural Lands Trust, a land conservation group serving eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. “At a time when public investments in open space have been reduced drastically, the incentive is a cost-effective way to encourage landowners—regardless of their means—to consider conservation as an option.”
Conservation-minded landowners now have until December 31, 2013 to take advantage of a significant tax deduction for donating a voluntary conservation agreement to permanently protect important natural or historic resources on their land. When landowners donate a conservation easement to Natural Lands Trust, its affiliate Montgomery County Lands Trust, or another qualified organization, they maintain ownership and management of their land and can sell or pass the land on to their heirs, while foregoing future development rights.
The enhanced incentive applies to a landowner’s federal income tax. It:
- Raises the deduction a donor can take for donating a voluntary conservation agreement from 30 percent of their income in any year to 50 percent;
- Allows farmers and ranchers to deduct up to 100 percent of their income; and
- Increases the number of years over which a donor can take the deduction from six to 16 years.
“Private conservation donations are in our DNA in this region,” Morrison said. “Some of our most treasured open spaces exist today because of the generosity of the landowner. This incentive makes the tax benefits of such donations available to a wider array of landowners.”
Congressman Jim Gerlach (R-6th District) serves Chester, Montgomery, Berks, and Lebanon Counties and has been a champion of the incentive from the beginning, sponsoring legislation during the last session of Congress that would make the incentive permanent.
“This critical conservation tool has been extremely effective because it benefits landowners who want to protect their property as well as communities interested in working together to preserve exceptional natural resources,” Gerlach said. “Renewing the incentive is a great first step, but it will not be the last.”
“Legislation that would make this incentive permanent received overwhelming bipartisan support of about three-quarters of the U.S. House of Representatives during the last session of Congress,” Gerlach added. “I will be reintroducing legislation to make the incentive a permanent option and look forward to working with my House colleagues, Natural Lands Trust, Montgomery County Lands Trust, and other partners to provide property owners with greater certainty about the availability of this option.”
Natural Lands Trust is the region’s largest land conservation organization and is dedicated to protecting the forests, fields, streams, and wetlands that are essential to the sustainability of life in eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. Since its founding, Natural Lands Trust has preserved more than 100,000 acres, including 41 nature preserves totaling more than 21,000 acres and 20,000 acres on which it holds conservation easements. For more information, visit www.natlands.org.
As a non-profit conservancy, Montgomery County Lands Trust works to preserve and connect the natural areas, farmland, and neighborhood green spaces which contribute to our quality of life, to a clean and abundant water supply, and to the health of the region’s economy. To learn more, please visit www.mclt.org.