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.


The Georgia Land Trust and The University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forestry are sponsoring a two day class on conservation easements on September  9- 10.  The course will cover a wide range of topics concerning easements, such as:

  • How easements affect land use
  • The advantages/disadvantages of easements
  • Which agencies and organizations can accept easements
  • Tax aspects of easements
  • How to plan for an easementIMG_5894 (1280x853)

The class is built for everyone from the novice to the professional. Landowners with an interest in protecting their forest property from development or other exploitation should attend. Foresters, accountants, attorneys, appraisers, and wildlife resource managers who work with landowners will benefit as well, plus professional CE credits will be available. Please see the link for more information or to register.

Our own executive director, Katherine Eddins will be instructing the course, plus guest speakers include board member Jack Sawyer and staff members, Kat Nelson, Drew Ruttinger, Stephen Kirk, Kimberly Holmes and Amy Gaddy.

If you have any questions about the class go online or call Ingvar Elle at 706-583-0566.



A bill making permanent the enhanced tax incentives for conservation easements is one step closer to becoming a law.  On Thursday, July 17th, the House passed H.R. 4719, The America Gives More Act of 2014, which is a charity package that, among many good causes, includes the Conservation Easement Incentive Act, HR 2807.

Choccolocco Creek

Choccolocco Creek

The enhanced incentive has been a win-win solution for private landowners who want to protect natural resources important to our communities. This new face of conservation permits landowners to set aside land for future generations and ensures that the wildlife habitat, scenic beauty and open space they provide benefit our communities far into the future.

This bill will allow landowners 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 to the Alabama, Georgia or Chattowah Open Land Trust, 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 bill changes the donation tax deduction in the following ways:

  • 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. Conservation Easements protect wildlife habitat, provide clean drinking water, create recreational spaces, and preserve working farms and ranches,” said  Land Trust Executive Director, Katherine Eddins.

” The Alabama Land Trust, Georgia Land Trust and The Chattowah Open Land Trust join America’s 1,700 land trusts and their two million supporters in thanking our members of Congress  for making this important conservation tool available,” she said.

According to the Land Trust Alliance, the national organization that provides a voice for land trusts in Washington, DC, this year represents a unique opportunity for Congress to make a final push to get this legislation over the finish line. With the spotlight now shining on the Senate, it is important to make every effort possible to make the incentive permanent once and for all.

To learn more about the enhanced incentive visit:




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.

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):