While it had plenty of critics, the bill signed recently by President Barack Obama that extends current income tax rates is getting a round of applause from - of all people - conservationists.
That’s because House Resolution 4853, the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010, includes an incentive for landowners who enlist their property with a voluntary conservation agreement.
Kevin Joyce, executive director of the Black Swamp Conservancy, says the incentive has enabled the conservancy to work with landowners to conserve more than 4,500 acres of productive farmland and natural areas between 2006 and 2009.
The incentive had expired at the end of 2009 but was included in the bill retro-active to Jan. 1, 2010.
It applies to a landowner’s income tax by:
• Raising the deduction an owner can take for donating a voluntary conservation agreement from 30 percent of his or her income in any year to 50 percent.
• Allowing farmers to deduct up to 100 percent of their income
• Allowing the number of years over which a donor can take deductions from six to 16 years.
Landowners who’ve donated a conservation agreement to the Black Swamp Conservancy still retain ownership and management of their land and can sell or bequeath it to their heirs, but forgo future development rights.
“Our whole community wins when thoughtful landowners conserve their land this way, protecting wildlife habitat, clean drinking water, scenic landscapes, recreational spaces, and productive agricultural lands,” Joyce said.
The Land Trust Alliance, a coalition of more than 1,700 land trusts across the country, heralded the passage of the incentive with this headline on a press release: “Deduction That Boosted Conservation by a Million Acres Gets New Life.”
The Alliance has already embarked on a campaign to make the incentive permanent, urging members to support pending bills, H..R. 1831 and Senate Bill 812, that do just that.
Both have bi-partisan support and the Alliance notes a coalition of 65 agricultural, sporting, and conservation organizations will be pressing for their passage.
The Alliance credits the enhanced tax deduction with helping land trusts nationwide work with farmers, ranchers, and other landowners of modest means.
Since its founding in 1993, the Black Swamp Conservancy has protected about 9,400 acres of family farms, woods, wetlands, and meadows in 12 Northwest Ohio counties, Joyce said.