With the president’s signature on the federal budget deal reached toward the end of 2015, the enhanced conservation tax deduction was made permanent. This was a huge victory for voluntary private land protection. The bipartisan legislation, which made the deduction a permanent part of the tax code, increased the deduction a landowner can take for donating a conservation easement, thus permanently protecting wildlife habitat and farm and ranch lands, from 30 percent of his or her income in a year to 50 percent. The carry forward period was also increased from five years to 15 years. This gives a donor a total of 16 years to absorb the value of a donated conservation easement.
There are also enhanced benefits for farmers and ranchers.
Qualifying farmers and ranchers who donate a conservation easement are now eligible to deduct up to 100 percent of their income. As part of the enhanced incentive, farmers and ranchers can also take advantage of the 15-year carry forward.
Update on the Land and Water Conservation Fund
Funding Renewed for three Years
In September of 2015, Congress voted not to renew Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) funding. Since its inception in 1965, LWCF has provided funds to federal agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and US Forest Service for a variety of conservation programs. From purchasing in‐holdings to securing conservation easements, the LWCF has made an enormous impact on land protection across the US, conserving approximately seven million acres of land. TRLT’s protection efforts within the Snake River Area of Critical Environmental Concern has largely been funded through LWCF. Over the last 25 years, over 20,000 acres have been protected in partnership with willing landowners along the South Fork and Henry’s Fork of the Snake River. As a result, the Canyon Stretch of the South Fork will remain largely undeveloped and unchanged for future generations to enjoy.
Thankfully, as part of the budget deal passed by Congress and signed by the President in December 2015, LWCF was re‐authorized for a period of 3 years. Through the budget deal, $450 million was allocated to LWCF for 2016.
This article appeared on the Teton Valley News website on March 2, 2016.