The Chattahoochee Valley Land Trust (CVLT) has achieved land trust accreditation fLTAC_seal_greenrom the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance.  CVLT is now one of only 254 land trusts from across the country that are currently accredited. Accredited land trusts are authorized to display a seal indicating to the public that they meet national standards for excellence, uphold the public trust and ensure that conservation efforts are permanent. The seal is a mark of distinction in land conservation.

“The Chattahoochee Valley Land Trust’s accredited status demonstrates our commitment to permanent land conservation that benefits the entire Chattahoochee Valley community,” says CVLT Board Member John Turner. “We will be celebrating our 14th anniversary this year and this honor is the culmination of all those years of hard work and dedication.”

The Chattahoochee Valley Land Trust’s purpose is to preserve and protect land for present and future generations in the Chattahoochee River basin. Founded in 1999, CVLT now conserves over 25,000 acres in conservation easements, including four miles along the new white water park area in downtown Columbus. Staff and Board members team with land owners and the community to be a perpetual steward of local resources. CVLT is also an affiliate of Georgia Land Trust, Alabama Land Trust and the Chattowah Open Land Trust. Together, the four entities protect over 250,000 acres across three states.

Each accredited land trust submitted extensive documentation and underwent a rigorous review. “Through accreditation land trusts conduct important planning and make their operations more efficient and strategic,” said Tammera Van Ryn. Executive Director of LTA’s Accreditation Commission. “Accredited organizations have engaged and trained citizen conservation leaders and improved systems for ensuring that their conservation work is permanent.”

Since its beginnings in July 1999, the Chattahoochee Valley Land Trust has made steady gains in organizational strength and in moving toward its mission of conserving land in beautiful southwest Georgia. Each year has seen growing interest by landowners in protecting their properties. Each new protected property ties into a broad effort to keep the Chattahoochee Valley area a tranquil, beautiful, and healthy environment for present and future generations. From the first easement, an urban site in north Columbus, to the present, CVLT has steadily expanded the breadth and effectiveness of its conservation efforts.

“A big thank you to the staff, board members, friends, and supporters for all of their hard work in making this accreditation possible,” said board member John Turner.

The Land Trust Alliance, of which Chattahoochee Valley Land Trust is a member, is a national conservation group that works to save the places people love by strengthening conservation
throughout America.

LTAC_seal_greenThe Georgia Land Trust (GLT), Alabama Land Trust (ALT), and The Chattowah Open Land Trust (COLT) have reached another huge milestone. The three entities have achieved land trust accreditation from the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance.  The Land Trusts now join the 254 land trusts from across the country that are currently accredited. Accredited land trusts are authorized to display a seal indicating to the public that they meet national standards for excellence, uphold the public trust and ensure that conservation efforts are permanent. The seal is a mark of distinction in land conservation.

“Our work to achieve accredited status demonstrates our commitment to preserve forests and farm land for present and future generations,” says Katherine Eddins, Executive Director for GLT, ALT, and COLT.

“The accreditation process gave us a chance to focus on our internal operations and to make sure we were holding ourselves to the highest standards of professionalism.  There were long hours and rigorous work in the application process, but that’s the way it should be.  We’re in the business of trust, and the seal of accreditation is important in earning and keeping that trust,” says Executive Director Eddins.

Land conservation efforts began in 1994, the year Dr. Chip and Roberta Reed founded the Chattowah Open Land Trust (COLT). Their actions were in response to rapid urban development in north Georgia and suburban encroachment in northeast Alabama. In 1999, the COLT board of directors needed full-time staff and hired Katherine Eddins, an attorney and forester, to guide the growth and evolution of COLT. Katherine continues to serve in this capacity as the executive director of all three entities.

COLT had great deal of success and potential conservation donors started coming in from all parts of Alabama and Georgia. Georgia Land Trust and Alabama Land Trust became the conservation organizations serving this regional conservation effort. From just a hand full of easements in 1994, the three entities and its affiliates have grown to hold over 600 easements that preserve over 250,000 acres.

The Georgia Land Trust continues to carry the banner for COLT and its interest in protecting the beautiful ridges and valleys of northwest Georgia, but GLT also serves a broad conservation mission throughout the state.  From preservation of coastal marshes and the buffering of Ft. Stewart from encroachment, to ensuring agricultural lands of middle and southwest Georgia are available for production.

The Alabama Land Trust also protects land throughout the state, but a special project has been the preservation of Choccolocco Creek in Calhoun and Talladega Counties. Choccolocco Creek is one of the most bio-diverse tributaries of the Coosa River. The Alabama Land Trust has established a Conservation Corridor over the entire course of the stream, focusing on the lower, more populous part of the 500 square mile basin.

“A big thank you goes out to the staff and all of our supporters and friends who had a hand in making this possible,” said Executive Director Katherine Eddins.

Each accredited land trust submitted extensive documentation and underwent a rigorous review. “Through accreditation land trusts conduct important planning and make their operations more efficient and strategic,” said  LTA Accreditation Commission Executive Director Tammara Van
Ryn.  “Accredited organizations have engaged and trained citizen conservation leaders and improved systems for ensuring that their conservation work is permanent.”

The Land Trust Alliance, of which the Georgia Land Trust, Alabama Land Trust, and the Chattowah Open Land Trust are members,is a national conservation group that works to save the places people love by strengthening conservation throughout America.

Flirty cow

Cattle Farm on the Lowell Dollar Easement in SW GA.

On February 7th, President Obama signed the Farm Bill into law and it was a win and a wait and see for Land Trusts.

The good news is the new Agricultural Lands Easement program which will provide grants to purchase conservation easements that permanently restrict development on important farmland and reward landowners who participate in the program with permanent tax breaks. These voluntary agreements will ensure that farm land continues to be an important  and growing  part of  local economies. Properly managed working ranch lands and farms also protect important habitats for fish and wildlife and the quality and cleanliness of rivers and streams.

The big unanswered question in the bill is the tax incentives for easement donors. The enhanced incentives expired at the end of December 2013.  Those  incentives were part of the 2006 Pension Protection Act, a bill that established new funding requirements for certain retirement plans. The bill increased tax deductions people can take for donating conservation easements from 30% of their adjusted gross income in any year to 50 percent. If a donor qualified as a farmer or rancher, then up to 100% of income could be deducted.

There is still hope among some members of Congress to reinstate the old incentive. In the last month, more congressional members have signed on to co-sponsor House Resolution 2807, and  Senate Bill 526 that will make the enhanced incentives permanent. Right now the bill is stuck in committee.

Let your representative or senator know how you feel. Call the Capitol switchboard number (202-224-3121) and ask for the staffer handling agricultural issues.

CVLT LOGOGeorgia Land Trust affiliate Chattahoochee Valley Land Trust is seeking a new program director.  The CVLT Program Director oversees the land protection program for the sixteen county region around Columbus, Georgia, including three counties in Eastern Alabama. Key responsibilities include: implementing urban conservation initiatives; working with landowners to protect land through conservation easements; and implementing CVLT’s sub-award agreement for the Army Compatible Use Buffering Program at Ft. Benning.

The director also cultivates landowner relationships in furtherance of the CVLT mission and ACUB Program. These relationships are crucial and it is desired that the applicant have ties to the Columbus area and prior dealings or contacts with community landowners, professionals, officials, and other interested stakeholders. Additionally, a degree in or substantial experience related to natural resources and/or environmental science, law, or policy is desirable. Depending upon the selected applicant’s skill set, responsibilities may also include the preparation of baseline documentation reports and/or conservation easements.

If you are interested, please submit your letter of interest and résumé to Hal Robinson at hrobinson@galandtrust.org. Email inquiries only, please. We look forward to reviewing your materials. To view the complete job description, click here.

Floyd Co GA Ag and Farmland cotton field _CCDue to gridlock in Congress, the enhanced conservation tax incentive was allowed to expire on December 31.  Since 2006, the incentive has helped protect more than 12 million acres of forests, urban parks and farmland. Approximately 230,000 acres of those 12 million have come from the work of the Alabama Land Trust, the Georgia Land Trust, and the Chattahoochee Valley Land Trust.

Starting January 1, landowners will still be able to take a deduction for donating easements, but will not be able to use the enhanced provisions.  The cap on the adjusted gross income goes back to 30% from the old enhanced amount of 50 percent. The carry over time for the deduction was also rolled back to 6 years from fifteen. The enhanced deduction has expired three times since 2006, and each time land donations have dropped. This on-again off-again nature of the incentive has made it difficult for land owners to make a decision about donating an easement. This situation is why some lawmakers are working to make the enhanced deduction permanent.

Leaders of  the Senate Finance Committee, Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced legislation in March to keep the tax incentives permanent with S 526, the Rural Heritage Conservation Extension Act. The House of Representatives companion bill is HR 2807. This bill was introduced by Congressmen Jim Gerlach (R-Penn) and Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and boasts 162 co-sponsors. More than 65 national groups are also supporting the bill. They range from the National Rifle Association to the Environmental Defense Fund.

Let your senator and congressman know how you feel about the enhanced tax incentive call the switchboard at 202-224-3121.

Wetland in Laurens Co, GA

Wetland in Laurens Co, GA

The conservation easement tax incentive is set to expire at the end of the year, but there are legislators and advocates who are trying to not only renew it, but make it permanent. 

Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced S.B. 526, the Rural Heritage Conservation Extension Act, and Representatives Jim Gerlach (R-PA) and Mike Thompson (D-CA) introduced H.R. 2807, the Conservation Easement Incentive Act in the House.  Both bills are currently being debated in committees.

Since 2006,  the enhanced income tax deduction has allowed family farmers, ranchers, and forest land owners to get a significant tax benefit for donating a conservation easement on their land.  Conservation easements allow private landowners to permanently retire development rights to protect significant natural resources. The enhanced tax incentive opened the door to voluntary, landowner-led conservation on millions of acres of important wildlife habitat, farmland, and scenic open space across the country. A survey by the Land Trust Alliance showed that this incentive helped America’s 1,700 land trusts increase the pace of conservation by a third – to over a million acres a year. This year the Georgia Land Trust, the Alabama Land Trust and the Chattowah Open Land Trust will surpass the quarter of a million acre mark in total conservation.

The rapid loss of farmland in this country and the fragmentation of natural environments is alarming.   The United States is losing more than 2 million acres of fertile farm, ranch and forest land every year, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  In fact, current rates and patterns of land consumption, if left unchecked, will result in wide-scale loss of the special natural places we need and love within the next 20 years.

Donating development rights to land – often a family‘s most valuable asset – requires careful planning and consideration. It often takes years from the initial conversations with a landowner before a conservation easement is executed. Landowners considering a such a commitment of their land should not be pressured by an artificial deadline, and many will never begin the process without the reassurance of a permanent incentive.

Tell your member of Congress how you feel. You can reach them by calling the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121.

Originally posted on Alabama Land Trust, Inc. & Georgia Land Trust, Inc.:

1-1-800-600-80

Octoberfest 2012

The Choccolocco Creek Heritage Society is having a party and you are invited. The Alabama Land Trust and the Choccolocco Creek Watershed Alliance are co-sponsoring the event coming up on October 12th at the Quad Cities Fire Station 1 at 220 Iron City Cutoff Road from 9 am until 3 pm.

It’s a free fun day for the whole family, a chance to stuff your face and your mind.   Local farmers will be selling fresh vegetables, and food vendors will have barbeque, treats and snacks. There will be arts and crafts, live music, prizes, living history displays and demonstrations on how nature makes sure we have clean water and air.

Be sure to catch the baseball tournament with teams from local volunteer fire departments.

Spaces are still available for vendors. Call Christy Claes at 256-454-6347 or email at cclaes@allandtrust.org .

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