In December, Congress permanently increased a tax break to a 50 percent income tax deduction for landowners wishing to place their land under a conservation easement, which protects it for future generations by prohibiting or limiting development.
When Congress first increased the tax break from 30 to 50 percent between 2006 and 2014, the amount of land placed into conservation easements rose by 33 percent, according to the Land Trust Alliance. But the pace of these land preservation arrangements slowed down last year when the substantial incentive was no longer available, according to land trust Upstate Forever. “I have had people waiting to enter an easement until the incentive was renewed,” says John Eustis, executive director of the New River Land Trust in western Virginia. “This is a fantastic victory for the conservation community.” — Eliza Laubach