The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust today praised a bipartisan congressional vote that makes permanent a federal tax incentive supporting land conservation.

Farmers, ranchers and the public will directly benefit from the incentive that encourages landowners to place a conservation easement on their land to protect important natural, scenic and historic resources. Georgia-Alabama Land Trust was among the 1,100 land trusts to support the incentive through a collaborative, multi-year campaign. uscapitol-washingtondc-picture1-001

“This will have significant impact on land conservation in our community,” said Katherine Eddins, Executive Director of the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust. “We are grateful to Congress and our local representatives for this important legislation.”

The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust is a member of the Land Trust Alliance, the national land conservation organization that led the campaign for permanence.

In a strong bipartisan action, the House voted 318-109 and the Senate voted 65-33 to pass the bills that included the tax incentive.

First enacted as a temporary provision in 2006, the incentive is directly responsible for conserving more than 2 million acres of America’s natural outdoor heritage. The incentive grants certain tax benefits to landowners who sign a conservation easement. Such private, voluntary agreements with local land trusts permanently limit uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. Lands placed into conservation easements can continue to be farmed, hunted or used for other specified purposes. The lands also remain on county tax rolls, strengthening local economies.

Once signed into law, the incentive will be applied retroactively to Jan. 1, 2015. An earlier version of the incentive expired Dec. 31, 2014.


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.

In case you hadn’t heard, there are bills in both houses of Congress that will go a long way towards aiding your local land trust (Alabama Land Trust and Georgia Land Trust included). The conservation easement tax incentive, an increased deduction for the charitable gift of a conservation easement, has helped land trusts nationwide put an extra half a million acres under easement in just two years. Unfortunately, the incentive is set to  die at the end of this year. Bills H.R. 1831 and S. 812, if passed, would make the current conservation easement tax incentive a permanent part of the tax code.

We’re asking all of our friends and supporters to contact their local representative to make sure these bills are supported. As it currently stands, the bills have 102 cosponsors in the House, less than half of the 218 required to pass the bill. The LTA has indicated the bill is in greater need of the support of the House, the Senate having been more amenable to the conservation easement tax incentive in the past. The most effective method of swaying your local representative is to call them at their Capitol Hill office. The Capitol Hill switchboard which will direct you to your representative’s office can be reached at: 202-224-3121

A fact sheet to help you talk to your representative about it can be found here.

Links to the bills can be found here: H.R. 1831; S. 812

For our own purposes I’ve rundown the info on who has or has not sponsored the bills in Alabama & Georgia:

In Georgia, Senator Isakson and Chambliss have both sponsored the bill.
In Alabama, neither Senator Shelby or Sessions have sponsored the bill.

The following map indicates the Alabama and Georgia districts and whether or not each representative has cosponsored the bill. Green means they have cosponsored, yellow means they had cosponsored a similar bill in the last Congress (110th) but have failed to do so in this one (111th):