Land conservation could get a boost from Congress

Richard and Nancy Montgomery and their son, Jeff Montgomery, have conserved 653 acres of productive farmland in Knox County’s Milford Township where they have been involved in dairying and productive row cropping since 1968. The Montgomerys worked with the Owl Creek Conservancy to develop land-protecting conservation easements for their four farms to assure the permanent use of their land for agriculture.

The Montgomerys granted conservation easements to the Conservancy on more than a square mile of productive farm fields in the past year.

“Our kids and grandkids cannot have the life we have had, if our productive agricultural land is used for houses,” Richard Montgomery said.

Similar efforts could be more viable in the future for Ohio farms with some help from the Conservation Easement Incentive Act that over 300 U.S. Representatives, including Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) and Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), have co-sponsored. H.R. 1964 makes permanent a recently expired tax incentive that helps land conservancies work with modest income landowners to conserve important natural resources in our community.

“We have seen firsthand the dramatic impact the incentive has had in helping landowners permanently conserve farms, woods, wetlands, and wildlife habitat in northwest Ohio and across the nation.” said Kevin Joyce, with the Black Swamp Conservancy in Northwest Ohio. “We look forward to working with Representatives Latta and Kaptur to get the bill passed.”

Landowners can retire the development rights on their land by donating a conservation easement to a land trust like Black Swamp Conservancy and the Owl Creek Conservancy. Since the incentive expired at the end of 2011, landowners with modest incomes now receive little tax benefit from restricting what may be their family’s most valuable asset. By allowing donors to deduct a larger portion of their income over a longer period of time, H.R. 1964 will help thousands of family farmers and other landowners of modest means to conserve their land.

As an example, under permanent law, an agricultural landowner earning $50,000 a year who donates a conservation easement worth $1 million could take a total of no more than $90,000 in tax deductions. Under the expired incentive, that landowner could have taken as much as $800,000 in tax deductions – still less than the full value of their donation, but a significant increase.

“We are excited that majorities of Republicans and Democrats can agree on supporting the work of local land trusts like Black Swamp Conservancy that are so important to their communities,” said Rand Wentworth, president of the Land Trust Alliance, which represents 1,700 land trusts nationwide.

The full list of 300 co-sponsors is available at www.lta.org/easementincentive/cosponsors.

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