Nature Noted

Notes on a changing Nature

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Location: Bellville, Texas, United States

I never would have predicted this one

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The Day After

The Washington Post has a fairly low key story up about the hearings this morning. The story focuses on the news that the IRS is going to be starting a special team to examine conservation easement abuses. I think the story is fairly muted because most of the "news" came out the day before, in the release of the investigation of TNC. There is no coverage in the story to the testimony of Rand Wentworth of the LTA. That's a shame because he lays out a prescription for fixing the problems that seems to be the path that the Senators are likely to support. Anyone with an interest in land trusts should read the the entire testimony. But here are the highlights.
After careful consideration, the Land Trust Alliance has decided to support reform legislation provided that it:
*Targets the worst abuses
*Is cost-effective for small, all-volunteer charities
*Protects the incentives for legitimate gifts
*Clarifies rules, rather than complicates them: and
*Complements what the private sector and state govenments can do to prevent abuses

The steps he suggest are summed up by the following themes.
Strict rules that establish minimum qualifications for appraisers and appraisals.
Stricter penalties for inflated appraisals.
Prohibit deductions for donations most subject to abuses
(i.e. golf courses, driving ranges, backyards)
Make the tax code fair for working farmers and ranchers (i.e. allow deductions to be a higher percentage of their gross income over a longer period, so they are not penalized by having modest incomes.)

Wentworth also went to bat for The Nature Conservancy, emphasizing that he believes it is committed to genuine reforms.
So my layman's take on all this, just from the opening statements and the outside coverage. Get ready to have easements scrutinized by the IRS, if you've been promoting easements on golf courses get ready to find another line of work, and I really hope The Nature Conservancy has taken a hard look at the cost of compromising its core values. It got so big and so good at what it was doing, it forgot why it was doing it. If that has truly changed, then this will have been worth all the trouble.

2 Comments:

Blogger Alan said...

TNC has big problems of its own making. The instructions from atop to field employees to talk about "working landscapes" and putting people first does a severe disservice to Wild Nature conservationists holding strong to the belief that Wild Nature has just as much right to exist as the bluegrass lawn of suburbia.

8:43 PM  
Blogger golfing-girls said...

You any good at golf? come and play with me tomorrow! get a tee time here tee times for golf and i'll see you on the first hold ;-)

mandy

5:05 PM  

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