Tax Benefits Result in More Acres Conserved

By: Amos S. Eno
Posted on:11/16/2007 Updated:10/09/2012

Now that the 2006 Pension Bill provisions are due to expire in just over a month it is becoming more and more imperative to persuade the senate and house to make these provisions permanent.    In our work with members of the senate finance committee we have been asked to provide them with
information and evidence about whether these provisions have influenced a greater number of landowners to take advantage of the tax incentives by donating easements during the term of the new provisions. 

We here at the Private Landowner Network sent a query out to the land conservation community asking them to provide commentary on the effectiveness of these provisions translating into acres conserved.  The responses have been eye opening and quite convincing.  The tax provisions (click here for a description) are motivating landowners, even pulling some out of the shadows, to donate conservation easements on their land.  Take a look through the responses we have received:

“[We] have taken many new projects in due to the tax incentives. Unfortunately, due to our backlog, and inability to hire new staff until next year, the folks who contacted us about work to get the tax incentive will not be able to take advantage of it unless it is extended.“
New Hampshire land trust
 
“Our firm is doing at least three times as many easements this year as in past years. I'm sure that the expanded tax incentives are the main difference.”
Texas Attorney
 
“We are on track to do about double the CE's our organization has EVER done in the past. Most are on water or prime undeveloped wildlife land. The tax provisions are the critical component as we talk to donors. I hear things like this every day, … we want to make sure we can take advantage of the tax benefits so we want to do a CE now." 
Michigan land trust
 
“The combination of this year's incentives for farmers and the money that the state of South Carolina provides for land protection is making it possible …”
South Carolina land trust
 
“… other owners of very desirable properties [from a conservation as well as a development point view] who will be less likely to do a deal with us if the more favorable tax provisions expire.”
Connecticut land trust
 
“I am doing over 4 times the Conservation Easements that I would normally do in a year.”
New York Attorney
 
“We have over three times the historical project load right now.“
Connecticut land trust
 
“We don’t have the staff to process all of the work we have. This piece of legislation may be the single biggest protector of private property from future subdivision ever.”
Michigan land trust
 
“[T]he landowners are [telling us they are] acting now in case the 2006 Pension Bill is not extended. We will likely have five times as many donated CE's this year and six times as many acres then the previous year.”
Ohio land trust
 
“We have already set a record in 2007. A number of landowners have specifically said they expanded the size of what they considered donating because this benefit helped them get past the very large value they were giving up”
Michigan land trust
 
“Last year we more than doubled the number of easements we closed and this year we doubled that again. Based on averages, we have seen a 375% increase in easements closed since the tax incentives went into effect. “
Wisconsin land trust
 
“[I]n 2007 we will have increased our protection almost seven-fold. These easements are specifically as a result of the 2006 Bill provisions.”
Hawaii land trust
 
“I can attest to the fact of increased demand, larger parcels, and interest from a broader array of landowners … of these being specifically motivated by the new tax incentives. “
Texas land trust
 
“[W]e haven’t had enough time to explain to less-wealthy landowners, particularly the timberland landowners in our northern counties, that they can truly now benefit from these incentives – where before, it probably was better financially for them to sell out to developers. We desperately need these tax incentives extended so that these folks can have the time to understand that they can also benefit.”
Texas land trust
 
“[W]e will have doubled fifteen years worth of acreage in one year.”
South Carolina land trust
 
“[P]rivate landowners involved were clearly motivated by the incentives. One of them had not intended to donate his easement until 2015. That particular easement will ensure the 100% protection of a native trout stream watershed in the Tennessee mountains. Making these incentives permanent is critically important.”
Tennessee land trust
 
“266 Acres have or will be completed as a result of these incentives.”
New Jersey land trust
 
“[We have] seen a marked increase in CE projects in the last 15months, and most of the increase is attributable directly to the 2006 Pension Protection Act provisions. Most of those would not be in process were it not for the PPA. In two specific instances, the landowners had been planning to donate the CE through bequests, but decided to make the donation inter vivos instead because of the PPA provisions.”
Massachusetts land trust
 
“This is close to a tripling conservation numbers completed when compared to previous years. [A] good proportion of this increase has been related to the increase in tax incentives landowners.”
Wyoming land trust
 
“Since the passage of this expanded tax incentive in August of 2006, our land trust has seen a dramatic increase in the interest of conserving valuable resources. Conservation easement inquiries went from 100/yr to well over 200/yr., and actual easements to be completed have gone from 4 in the first 8 months of 2006, to 50 to be completed (if at all possible) by the end of 2007.    The net result will be a doubling of protected lands in SW Ohio in one year! “
Ohio land trust
 
“[A landowner said he] may not donate the easement unless there is the full tax benefit that exists in the current law. This makes it all the more critical that the conservation easement tax incentives become permanent or at least be extended for another couple years.”
Wisconsin land trust
 
“We expect to finish four times as many as we did last year! Many of the new easements completed this year have had the added impetus of the tax benefits figure strongly in the donors' decisions to 'go for it' now. As far as we can judge, no one has declined the opportunity to complete an easement with us because of the added tax benefits from the Pension Bill.”
Tennessee land trust
 
“Last year the Maryland Environmental Trust accepted 34 easements on 3,185 acres. This year, if all projects are completed by year’s end, we’ll have 77 easements on 7,920 acres in MD. There are a few purchased ones (both years) but the great majority are donated. We believe that the increase is largely attributable to the new federal benefits. “
Maryland land trust
 
“[W]e have had so much interest that we have had to turn some landowners away who wanted to make the donation by 12/31/07 because we don't have the capacity to handle the demand in such a short period of time. In other words, we will likely protect six times as many acres this year through donated easements as we did in three years prior to enactment of the Pension Bill provisions.”
Ohio land trust
 
“[We were] able to close three times our usual amount.    The incentives made local headlines here, energized our land trust, and generated an extraordinary level of interest and excitement in conservation. We urge Congress to extend these provisions. They have generated more interest in land conservation than any single initiative in memory.”
Massachusetts land trust
 
“Since the provisions went into effect we have almost doubled our protection in eastern Washington and northern Idaho. For sure the easements are a result of the tax provisions. The tax incentives caused increased interest in conservation easements and gave us an entrée into the estate planner and financial advisor circles so we now have more lined up for 2008. We’ve never been so busy.”
Washington land trust
 
“This year alone we are looking to increase our protected acreage by a full 33%, and all of these are donated easements from landowners interested in taking advantage of the new incentives. Some of these properties are quite large, and the landowners otherwise would not have had the opportunity to maximize the value of their donation, had it not been for the 2006 Pension Bill provisions.”
Georgia land trust
 
“It would be wonderful if the provisions were made permanent since we have other landowners who are interested in donating in 2008. We have experienced a higher level of interest in easement donations this year due to the incentives. Our county is under extreme development pressure, so making the incentives permanent will continue to be a great help in preserving important parcels of land.”
Pennsylvania land trust
 
“[We have had] a significant increase from 12 to 42 easements in our county this year, and clearly driven by the enhanced tax benefits available this year. Let's hope it will be extended or even better, made permanent. A lot of good private land conservation is happening as a result.”
Massachusetts land trust
 
“[We] have seen a decided increase in easement projects. So far, we have concluded 9 easements involving 371 acres. We are currently working on 21 more easements involving 840 acres that are scheduled for year-end completion.”
Pennsylvania land trust

Feedback

re: Tax Benefits Result in More Acres Conserved
By: Mississippi Land Trust on: 11/30/2007

We have seen a significant increase this year in the amount of conservation easements we will file. This is all due to the enhanced incentives provided in the 2006 Pension Bill. It is very important to conservation that these incentives be extended.