Last week, Congress took a major step forward with legislation that would provide a big boost to private, voluntary land conservation. Thanks to the unwavering leadership of U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.) and the support of many other local representatives, a bill that would make permanent a tax incentive that empowers landowners – especially those of modest means – to choose conservation is now heading to the House floor.
Conservation easements are one of the most effective and efficient ways to conserve our communities’ vital open spaces and keep land available for farming, hiking, hunting, and fishing. Through a limited tax deduction, landowners are able to donate an easement on their most prized assets – forests, fields, and farms – to ensure a legacy of enjoyment and food production for future generations. The land stays with the landowner, but development is permanently restricted for conservation purposes.
A special incentive has made these donations more accessible to farmers, ranchers, and other landowners since 2006. Across the country, it is credited with increasing the pace of conservation to more than one million acres per year. Unfortunately, the incentive for donations of conservation easements expired at the end of 2013, closing a window of opportunity for meaningful and permanent conservation. So the 75 conservation organizations that make up the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association extend their thanks to the congressman for his leadership on this issue. Gerlach’s bill would make sure the incentive never expires again, and with his help we are closer than ever to this important goal.
|Andrew M. Loza, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Land Trust Association, Chadds Ford