Tax Incentives for Donated Easements Extended
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Dijit Taylor, <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /??>Director Center for Land Conservation Assistance
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tax Incentive for Local Land Conservation Renewed
Concord, NH (July 10, 2008) Private landowners—especially family farmers— will benefit from a federal land conservation tax incentive that passed in June. The incentive, which had expired at the end of 2007, helped willing landowners in New Hampshire and across America to conserve record numbers of acres of agricultural and natural land in 2006 and 2007.
The incentive makes it more economically feasible for thousands of farmers and other landowners of modest means to conserve their land and keep it in agricultural production. Voluntary conservation easements help preserve working farms and ranches and make it easier for families to pass the land to the next generation.
The incentive, which applies to a landowner’s federal income tax, will:
- Raise the deduction a donor can take for donating a voluntary conservation agreement from 30 percent of their income in any year to 50 percent;
- Allow farmers and ranchers to deduct up to 100 percent of their income; and
- Increase the number of years over which a donor can take deductions from six to 16 years.
“The extension of these tax benefits allows dozens of landowners all across New Hampshire to conserve their land,” said Forest Society President/Forester Jane Difley. “It brings the state closer to its long-term land conservation goals and helps counteract the negative effects of global climate change.”
Melinda Geddes of Deerfield donated a 275-acre conservation easement to the Forest Society in 2007. She wanted to ensure that the land she had owned for 20 years would remain in its pristine, undeveloped condition even under other owners in the distant future.
“We hurried to finish the project while I could still benefit from the 2006-2007 tax incentives,” said Ms. Geddes. “I am thrilled that the tax incentive has been extended so other landowners can protect more land. I actually hope to make an additional donation myself under the extension.”
Landowners throughout the state participated eagerly in donations of conservation easements during the period of the tax incentives. Some examples:
· Five Rivers Conservation Trust, which serves 16 towns in the Concord area, conserved 899 acres through 12 projects during 2006-2007, increasing their total number of protected acres to more than 1,500.
· Farther north, the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust completed 14 conservation easement projects in the Conway area, taking them from 12 parcels with just over 500 conserved acres to 26 projects that comprise nearly 3,800 acres.
· Ausbon Sargent Land Preservation Trust, active in the New London area, completed seven projects totaling 787 acres in 2007. The organization has added an additional staff person to help meet the demand for projects expected with the extension of the incentive.
· Spencer Brookes of the Wilton Conservation Commission partnered with the Forest Society to conserve the 141-acre McGettigan project. The conservation easement was donated by nine highly motivated siblings who grew up on the family farm there. Brookes said, “It was most clear to me as I worked with the family spokesperson that the calendar year deadline for the tax incentive had to be honored or the easement would not be donated.”
All of the fifty New Hampshire land trusts are grateful to Congressman Paul Hodes and Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter for their support in renewing this important conservation tax incentive.
“This tax incentive is critical to continue the success of landowners donating their land for conservation purposes,” said Congressman Paul Hodes, one of the co-sponsors of the bill. “It will help preserve New Hampshire’s beauty for generations.”
Landowners now have two more years, until December 31, 2009, to take advantage of special benefits for donating conservation easements. But the new law is temporary: unless it is renewed, easements will revert to a much lower level of tax benefits in 2010.
According to the Land Trust Alliance, a national organization that provides a voice for land trusts in Washington, DC, more than 200 Members of Congress have cosponsored legislation to permanently extend the incentive. The legislation is supported by American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Ducks Unlimited, The Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, and many conservation organizations.
The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (www.forestsociety.org) is the state’s oldest and largest non-profit land conservation organization. In order to preserve the quality of life New Hampshire residents know today, the goal of the Forest Society, in partnership with other conservation organizations, private landowners, and government, is to conserve an additional one million acres of the state’s most significant natural lands for trails, parks, farms and forests by 2026. For more information, visit www.forestsociety.org.