December 21, 2015 – weekly land trust news

 

ICYMI, we sent out our December newsletter on Friday, featuring all the good news Congress gifted to conservation last week (and more!)

COLT’s weekly land trust news

December 21st, 2015

Happy Monday everyone,

Or, happy Monday to those of us still working this week. Seems kinda quiet all around.

We hope everyone saw the good news on Friday: Congress passed, and the President signed into law, permanency for the enhanced tax incentive for conservation easement donations. This represents a huge victory for land trusts and landowners.

Along with the easement incentive, Congress also renewed the Land and Water Conservation Fund for another three years, along with boosting FY 2016 funding nearly 50% to $450 million. While the conservation community will still be pushing for permanency come 2018 when LWCF expires again, there is general agreement that the boost in funding along with temporary renewal of the fund is a big win as well. 

In case you are wondering, “What is so ‘enhanced‘ about this tax incentive anyway?”, here’s the skinny:

  • It raises the maximum deduction a donor can take for donating a conservation easement from 30% of their adjusted gross income (AGI) in any year to 50%;
  • It allows qualified farmers and ranchers to deduct up to 100% of their AGI; and
  • It increases the number of years over which a donor can take deductions from 6 to 16 years.

These generous elements are now the permanent norm available to landowners who donate a conservation easement. So this is great news for conservation.

Here’s how the Oregon delegation ended up voting for both provisions:

Easement incentive (as found in the large tax bill; passed the House 318-109):

  • Yay: Blumenauer, Bonamici, Walden
  • Nay: DeFazio, Schrader

LWCF (as found in the omnibus bill; passed the House 316-113):

  • Yay: Blumenauer, Bonamici, DeFazio, Walden
  • Nay: Schrader

In the Senate: Interestingly, although they are very supportive of the easement incentive and LWCF reauthorization, both Senators Wyden and Merkley voted against the omnibus package in the Senate (which included the tax extender package as well and LWCF). Sen. Wyden’s leadership in particular helped immensely in the final negotiations for tax bill. However, as this Oregonian article explains, both Senators felt the omnibus bill contained elements they could not support (cybersecurity provision for Wyden, lifting the ban on oil exports for Merkley). The Senate passed the omnibus 65-33 nonetheless.

So, with these nice gifts for conservation at this time of year, we’d like to wish you all a happy holiday season. On behalf of Kelley and myself, we have been grateful to work with each of you this year, and look forward to another banner year in 2016.

All the very best, 

      –Mike

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