Congress makes permanent strong incentive for conservation easements

Friday December 18, 2015

Trey, Tammie and Cormac Hagen walking on their land, protected through a conservation easement donated to the McKenzie River Trust.

Trey, Tammie and Cormac Hagen walking on their land, protected through a conservation easement donated to the McKenzie River Trust.

In a strong bipartisan action, the Senate voted 65-33 today to pass the omnibus spending bill that will make the tax incentive for conservation easement donations permanent. This follows yesterday’s 318-109 vote in the House. This legislation has been a federal priority for the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts, and it represents a huge win for conservation, landowners and for the land trust community in Oregon and across the country. Once signed into law the incentive will be applied retroactively to start Jan. 1, 2015.

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, and thousands of acres here in Oregon. The incentive grants expands 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.

The incentive advanced through Congress as part of the America Gives More Act, a package of tax incentives to encourage charitable giving. In Oregon, the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts partnered closely with the Oregon Food Bank, the Nonprofit Association of Oregon, and Philanthropy Northwest to rally support for three tax incentives important to our organizations: food donations, conservation easements, and charitable contributions from IRA accounts. All three were made permanent in today’s legislation.

Today’s vote also reauthorized the Land and Water Conservation Fund for three years and increased its funding from $306 million last year to $450 million this year.

The Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts would like to thank Senators Wyden and Merkley for their strong support of the tax incentive for conservation, as well our members and partners that helped raise support for this historic measure.