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Congress approves bill to strengthening conservation tax incentives

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Earlier this month, Congress approved legislation that will increase and extend conservation tax incentives as part of the Pension Protection Act, H.R.4.

This federal tax benefit, section 1206, includes tax deductions for farmers and ranchers who donate conservation easements on their property. The bill also sets standards for appraising land, reforms which the conservation community—including the state fish and wildlife agencies—strongly supported and advocated.

“This is a significant conservation success to be able to ensure presence on the land and continued cooperation of working farmers and ranchers who care deeply about natural resources,” said John Cooper, president of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and secretary of South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department. “This legislation helps clear up some of the complexity and concerns about conservation easements and spotlights their role in private lands conservation. Among our many partners in achieving this success, we particularly applaud the leadership of the Land Trust Alliance.”

The bill will not only encourage new conservation easements and provide a significant tax break to family farmers, ranchers, and other moderate-income landowners, but it will also restrict future development, protecting a resource important to the public.

Most conservation easement donations are made to local, community-based charities dedicated to keeping land in agriculture, conserving important wildlife habitats and protecting important open space and historic resources.

The legislation will:

•Raise the maximum deduction a donor can take for donating a conservation easement from 30 percent of their adjusted gross income in any year to 50 percent.

•Allow qualified farmers and ranchers to deduct up to 100 percent of their adjusted gross income.

•Increase the number of years over which a donor can take deductions from six years to 16 years.

This provision will be effective for donations made through Dec. 31, 2007. After that, the law would revert back to previous provisions unless Congress grants an extension before the deadline.

“The bill also sets much higher standards for appraisers and appraisals of all donated property, and sets higher penalties for abusive appraisals,” said Cooper. “Conservationists support this piece of the bill because it ensures the integrity of charitable donations, and justly tightens restrictions on easements.”

In addition to the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, many of the nation’s leading sportsmen’s and conservation organizations support the legislation, including Land Trust Alliance, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the American Farmland Trust.

The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies--which represents all of North America’s fish and wildlife agencies--promotes sound management and conservation and speaks with a unified voice on important fish and wildlife issues.

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