Good News for conservationists and farmers. Congress’ “fiscal cliff” deal renewed a tax incentive for private landowners—especially working family farmers and ranchers—who protect their land with a voluntary conservation agreement. The incentive, which had expired at the end of 2011, helped the Alabama Land Trust and the Georgia Land Trust work with willing landowners in our community to conserve 31 thousand acres of productive agricultural lands and natural areas  for 2012.

Conservation-minded landowners now have until December 31, 2013 to take advantage of a significant tax deduction for donating a voluntary conservation agreement to permanently protect important natural or historic resources on their land. When landowners donate a conservation easement tot The Land Trusts, they maintain ownership and management of their land and can sell or pass the land on to their heirs, while foregoing future development rights.

The enhanced incentive applies to a landowner’s federal income tax. The new incentive:

  • Raises the deduction a donor can take for donating a voluntary conservation agreement from 30% of their income in any year to 50%;
  • Allows farmers and ranchers to deduct up to 100% of their income; and
  • Increases the number of  years over which a donor can take deductions from 6 to 16 years.

“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,” said Katherine Eddins, the Land Trusts Executive Director. “Conservation agreements have become an important tool nationally for protecting our watersheds, farms and forests, increasing the pace of private land conservation by a third – to over a million acres a year. The Land Trust joins over 1,700 other land trusts across the country and their two million supporters in thanking Congress for making this important conservation tool available,” she said.