As a member of the Board of a Louisiana land trust and someone who has been interested in the use of permanent conservation easements for a number of years, I offer an idea for expanding the use of conservation easements on lands whose owners are “land rich, but cash poor”—that is, the large majority of American landowners. My goal is to further the utilization of permanent conservation easements (CE) by all Americans.
We know the current Federal Tax Code gives the majority of benefits/incentives (although there are some states with their own CE incentives) to those who conserve properties in perpetuity. With a little adjustment, current federal tax law could encourage Americans to preserve more rural lands through use of CEs. Such adjustments could prompt a positive boost to economic activity around our great country without causing the federal government to lose much, if any, tax revenue.
The idea is to adjust the Tax Code (26 US Code 170 [h]) to allow the tax deduction incentives/benefits to be portable by creating a secondary market for the sale of CE tax deductions. This would encourage small landowners as well as the “land rich and cash poor” to participate in the conservation of lands that in most cases are taken permanently out of rural use because the only option available is to sell the land for development. . . . (more)