Nature Noted

Notes on a changing Nature

Location: Bellville, Texas, United States

I never would have predicted this one

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

TNC and easements

Reading throught the Staff investigation of the TNC, you get an idea of what might be in store for conservation easements. I've pulled a series of statements from the report to highlight.... you'll get the drift as you read through them.
“The staff notes that in at least one case involving a small easement, TNC was reluctant to bear the cost of litigation to enforce to resolve easment disputes. TNC and conservation organizations often must weigh the cost of litigation against the benefit achieved from enforcement. This makes easements, particularly those small in value, difficult to enforce in perpetuity because easement holders may not believe there is a credible threat of litigation.”

“TNC’s monitoring efforts did not reach the level that is now the standard requirement of TNC....”

“TNC’s conservation easement compliance efforts failed to meet the tests established in the Alliance Land Trust Standards and Practices set forth in the LTA Guidebook.”

“The Staff recommends that the IRS consider revoking the tax-emempt status of a conservation organization that regularly and continuously fails to monitor and enforce conservation easements. Alternatively, the IRS should suspend tax-deductible contributions to such an organization and require the organization to notify potential donors of such suspension. In addition the law should permit the IRS to impose excise taxes on officers and directors for failure to adopt and enforce policies to assure the organization satisfies its monitoring and enforcement obligations.”

The Staff recommends the implementation of an accreditation system for conservation organizations.

The Staff recommends that the Committee consider limiting charitable contribution deductions for certain small easement donations and consider providing the IRS with authority to require pre-approval of tax deductions for such donations.

The Staff recommends that the IRS issue guidance regarding what factors may be necessary to establish minimum levels of compliance regarding monitoring of easements.

So, TNC wasn't living up to the standards that even small land trusts are expected to abide by, wasn't too eager to enforce small fry easement violations and has set up a need for stricter standards that can be monitored.... along with some pretty stiff penalties for failure to monitor and to document the monitoring. Thanks TNC!


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