Nature Noted

Notes on a changing Nature

Location: Bellville, Texas, United States

I never would have predicted this one

Monday, June 20, 2005

A Defense from the West

One of the things I like most about writing this blog is coming in contact with folks all over the country. Rob Bleiberg of the Mesa Land Trust wrote to say hi after I mentioned the 25th anniversary of the trust in an earlier post. Rob notes that anniversary celebrations will be going on through the summer and fall, but mainly wanted to point out a terrific editorial in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel defending conservation easement articles. The editorial notes the important work the Mesa Land Trust is doing there and how it has effectively used easements in Mesa county. The paper then lays out a concise and fair summation of the problems found nationally with easements so far, and urges Congress to make reforms but .......
"Per usual, Congress is considering both good ideas and bad ideas in its desire to curb the abuse of conservation easements. Among the bad ideas being bandied about Congress these days is a proposal to limit the tax deduction that a landowner can take for donating a conservation easement to just one-third of the full development rights of the property.
That’s precisely the wrong approach because imposing an artificially low limit on tax deductions would mitigate most strongly against the most valuable conservation easements, such as those used by ranchers to keep cattle growing on their property rather than condominiums.
What’s needed are clear-cut appraisal standards that are universally accepted by land trusts nationwide. Additionally, there is certainly a need for more transparency and public record-keeping and, if need be, more rigorous enforcement from the tax gendarmes at the Internal Revenue Service to lower the boom on anyone out to clearly scam the system.
Since their introduction a quarter century or so ago, conservation easements have helped protect critical wildlife habitat, open space and vital farm and ranch lands on more than 17,000 properties totaling more than 5 million acres nationwide.
Conservation easements serve an overwhelmingly vital public interest. Congress should be mindful of that as it goes about the necessary task of crafting circumspect ways to end abuses in the application of this vital conservation tool".

Absolutely right. I urge any trust to include this editorial in their arsenal of arguments when trying to make their elected officials and the general public aware of the importance of the easement deduction. Thanks, Rob, and enjoy the anniversary!


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