A majority of members of the U.S. House of Representatives now support a bill to permanently enact a tax incentive for conservation of farmland and open spaces.
The Conservation Easement Incentive Act, introduced last year by Rep. Jim Gerlach, R-Pa., and Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., would make permanent the enhanced tax incentive created in 2006 to help landowners preserve farms, forests and historical sites in protected easements, working in partnership with nonprofit conservation organizations like the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
The enhanced tax incentive – which has helped increase the national rate of land protected through conservation easements to 1 million acres per year – expired at the end of last year.
“Easements are wonderful tools because they are voluntary agreements that limit future development while keeping land in private hands,” said Thomas D. Saunders, president and CEO of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. “They are a great option for landowners who recognize that they live in a special place and want to be a part of the long-term protection of it.”
The bipartisan bill was approved by the House Ways and Means Committee on May 29 and is waiting to be taken up by the full house.
According to the 2010 National Land Trust Census, 502,243 acres in the Commonwealth have been protected by state and local land trusts. The Conservancy has protected 35,600 acres through conservation easements.
The Land Trust Alliance provides more information about the bill.