Blue Ridge Conservancy (BRC) praised a bipartisan congressional vote that makes permanent a federal tax incentive supporting land conservation. BRC is a private, non-profit organization with the mission of working with landowners and local communities to permanently protect land and water resources with agricultural, ecological, cultural, recreational and scenic value.
Farmers, ranchers and the public will directly benefit from the incentive that encourages landowners to place a conservation easement on their land to protect important natural, scenic and historic resources. Blue Ridge Conservancy was among the 1,100 land trusts to support the incentive through a collaborative, multi-year campaign.
“During this season of giving we are grateful to Congress and our political leadership for providing a tool to strengthen land conservation. It is truly a gift to our country today and for future generations,” said Walter Clark, Blue Ridge Conservancy Executive Director.
Blue Ridge Conservancy is a member of the Land Trust Alliance, the national land conservation organization that led the campaign for permanence.
“The importance of this vote – and this incentive – cannot be overstated,” said Rand Wentworth, the Alliance’s president. “This is the single greatest legislative action in decades to support land conservation. It states, unequivocally, that we as a nation treasure our lands and must conserve their many benefits for all future generations.”
In a strong bipartisan action, the House voted 318-109 and the Senate voted 65-33 to pass the bills that included the tax incentive.
First enacted as a temporary provision in 2006, the incentive is directly responsible for conserving more than 2 million acres of America’s natural outdoor heritage. The incentive grants certain tax benefits to landowners who sign a conservation easement.
Such private, voluntary agreements with local land trusts permanently limit uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. Lands placed into conservation easements can continue to be farmed, hunted or used for other specified purposes. The lands also remain on county tax rolls, strengthening local economies.
Once signed into law, the incentive will be applied retroactively to Jan. 1, 2015.
An earlier version of the incentive expired Dec. 31, 2014.
The incentive advanced through Congress as part of the America Gives More Act, a package of tax incentives to encourage charitable giving. It passed the House earlier this year, 279-137.
A standalone version of the incentive, the Conservation Easement Incentive Act, earned 52 Senate sponsors this year, including 26 Democrats, 24 Republicans and 2 Independents. The agreement announced this week additionally encourages donations to food banks and facilitates charitable deductions from IRAs.
About Blue Ridge Conservancy
BRC is a private, non-profit, non-governmental organization incorporated in North Carolina. BRC has protected over 18,000 acres in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey Counties. In addition to protecting working farmland, BRC’s efforts have resulted in the creation of state natural areas like Beech Creek Bog, Bear Paw State Natural Area and Bullhead Mountain. We continue to help Elk Knob State park expand its borders and established a 2,900-acre State Game Land preserve on Pond Mountain in Ashe County.More information about Blue Ridge Conservancy is available at www.blueridgeconservancy.org.
About the Land Trust Alliance
Founded in 1982, the Land Trust Alliance is a national land conservation organization that works to save the places people love by strengthening land conservation across America. The Alliance represents more than 1,100 member land trusts supported by more than 100,000 volunteers and 5 million members nationwide. The Alliance is based in Washington, D.C. and operates several regional offices. More information about the Alliance is available at www.landtrustalliance.org.