What Is Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program? | RenewMethod

As we continue to move in the direction of sustainable living, landowners are finding that there are great tax incentives in preserving their land.

To encourage the conservation of natural spaces, state and federal governments are encouraging landowners to get involved in a Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program to protect their local environment and retain the beauty of natural lands for which donors receive a significant tax credit.

While this sounds like an amazing program to get involved in, you should know that there specific qualifications that landowners need to adhere to in order to be able to get involved in the program.  A Conservation Land Tax Credit Incentive Program requires that the piece of land being donated must have an environmental value that will benefit the local community and ecology of the area.  

Getting involved in this tax incentive is highly encouraged by federal and state governments to protect natural spaces.  The Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program is overseen and approved by Energy & Environmental Affairs with a primary focus on ensuring sustainable energy for the future.

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Environmental Benefits

While what drives many property owners to get involved in this program is the tax incentive, the primary function of its creation is to encourage sustainability and protect the environment of private-owned lands from invasive development.

We often think of ecology as something that occurs around us and can seem like it’s outside of our personal influence.  While this may typically be the case in an urbanized environment, property owners who have land with even a small yet significant environmental feature can be a huge proponent in protecting their land and local habitat.

With that being said, landowners in rural areas generally tend to benefit from the Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program the most, as they often own more land than in a developed area and have more undisturbed biodiversity surrounding them.  With a nation as large as the United States, there are plenty of rural lands that have significant environmental qualities that should be protected by this program.

Since the popularization of this program in the 1980s, the Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program has protected millions of acres of land from development and has greatly contributed to the preservation of habitats and the health of countless species.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways this tax incentive has helped protect the environment of our nation’s lands.

Habitat Protection

Throughout the mass development of the 19th and 20th centuries, the American empire was built and urbanization spread like wildfire across the United States.  This large-scale development has greatly contributed to our economy and has established an international reputation for our nation.

However, in the process of such rampant development, much of the natural beauty of our lands was sabotaged, which resulted in millions of acres of land and essential, ecological habitats being destroyed, as well as countless species becoming extinct or endangered.

The Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program has targeted a critical area of environmental protection at its core; private lands.  By working with private landowners to establish protected areas, state and federal governments are able to combat the invasive development that so often occurs with unused land.

This in turn enables the protection of many crucial and often at-risk habitats for local species.  In addition, much of our nation’s private lands are used as a path for species during their migration periods.  The Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program allows for the safe passage of migratory species and ensures the protection of indigenous species.  

Outdoor Recreation

When we pave over natural lands, we not only disturb wildlife and crucial habitats, we also limit our own accessibility into the outdoors.

When living in an urbanized area, people have far fewer ways to escape and connect with nature.  Rural communities on the other hand often have access to the outdoors without the need for state or federally protected lands - thanks to the Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program.

Private landowners that allow public access to their local community, often establish their land as a designated nature reserve - so that everyone can enjoy the natural benefits of the land.
By preserving their land and opening its use for outdoor recreation, locals living in the area can indulge in activities such as:

  • Nature walks
  • Vista points
  • Cycling
  • Picnicking

While most private lands involved in the Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program remain untouched and in the legal hands of the property owner, the potential for converting the land to a state reserve, state park, or even national park is much higher than if the land had been left on the seller’s market.

Forestation

The primary threat we all face on our planet is climate change.  Our alarming rate of carbon emissions combined with the mass deforestation happening on a global scale calls for the necessity of preserving as much of our forested lands as possible.

Federal and state governments try to preserve and protect as many forested lands as possible based on environmental benefit and potential economic return, but a significant amount of our forest still lies in the hands of private landowners.

It’s thanks to landowners who have forests on their property that get involved in the Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program that we are able to effectively combat the global climate crisis and mitigate our national carbon footprint.

In addition, protecting forested lands through the program provides benefits such as:

  • Air purification
  • Nutrient cycling
  • Habitat protection

It’s estimated that since the year 1600, the United States has already lost up to 75% of its natural forests.  By getting involved in the Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program, landowners are able to prevent further damage caused by centuries of deforestation.

Waterway Protection

The rise of urban development is often a major contributor to the contamination and pollution of a local environment’s freshwater channels.  

That is why local governments highly encourage that landowners with access points to freshwater to get involved in the Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program.  These freshwater channels can include anything from streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes.

By protecting these channels, we help our environment in the following ways:

  • Stable fish population
  • Healthy aquatic species
  • Safe drinking water for land animals
  • Reliable source of water for farming

With less than .5% of our world’s freshwater being accessible to humans, protecting all of our safe drinking water is not only vital for our own survival but to the survival of all species that are dependent on it.

How to Qualify

Property owners living in urbanized areas often have a harder time reaping the benefits of getting involved with this program, as their land generally doesn’t meet the environmental value required for the incentive.  However, individuals who do qualify for the Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program are rewarded with a tax credit that is worth up to 50% of the property value.

With that being said, most property owners that get involved tend to be in rural areas, but not exclusively, as the most important aspect of qualifying for the program is the environmental value of your land.

The following steps will set you on your way to getting your land approved for the Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program:

  1. Since the primary agency that will be handling the approval of your land tax incentive will be conducted by the Energy and Envrionmental Affairs, you should review their website to see the criteria of the state you are applying in.
  2. Once proper documentation has been filled out, you submit the paperwork to the Energy and Environmental Affairs for their review.
  3. If your property specifications qualify for an inspection on paper, an appraiser will be dispatched to assess your property.
  4. The appraiser will evaluate the percentage of your property that is on valued environmental land and will determine a figure for your tax incentive.
  5. Once all conditions have been met, the Enery and Environmental Affairs will require that you officially submit your private land as a donation to finalize the process.

The Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program is not only an incredible way for property owners to financially benefit from their unused land but also can prove to be a major contributor to the prospect of sustainable living and protecting our nation’s natural environment.

About THE AUTHOR

James Parker

James Parker

James Parker has a Masters degree in Sustainability with a focus on land management, permaculture and regenerative agriculture. He also has experience managing sustainability projects, and is passionate about conservation and sustainability.

Read More About James Parker