Eastern Sierra Land Trust is a Nationally Accredited land trust, which means we always hold ourselves to the highest standards of excellence. You can trust us to do the right things, and you can always trust us to take action when our protection tools are under threat.
And that’s what is happening right now. The conservation easement tax incentive – one of the most important tools for private land conservation – is at great risk from people who are abusing charitable donations to make a profit. It is urgent that Congress take action to halt this abuse that has cost taxpayers more than $20 billion to date, according to recent IRS data.
The federal conservation easement tax incentive helps landowners protect the places they love by donating a conservation easement, and allows landowners to take a charitable deduction based on the fair market value of the easement. This helps make conservation a viable option for landowners who may have no other alternative to ensure their land is conserved as they wish.
Unfortunately, a few bad actors are exploiting the incentive, making large profits at the expense of taxpayers. Congress put the incentive in place to reward those who engage in true charity. It is tragic to think that a few bad actors could jeopardize an incentive that benefits all Americans. It’s time to halt these transactions.
Recently, U.S. Congress introduced the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act, and ESLT is in strong favor of this proposed legislation.
This bipartisan legislation would prevent abuse while ensuring that the vast majority of conservation easements can continue to go forward as truly charitable endeavors. The House and Senate bills disallow charitable deductions only when a profit is made in a short time from the donation of a conservation easement. The bills are narrowly focused to halt this abuse and include an exception for family partnerships.
ESLT is working with the Land Trust Alliance (LTA) on this important matter, and we’re hoping you can help too. For years, LTA has pursued many public and private solutions to try to shut down these tax shelters. They also created and continually update the Land Trust Standards and Practices, which Eastern Sierra Land Trust has followed since the Standards and Practices were first put in place.
We’re asking for your help now to encourage Congress to pass the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act. Please write your members of Congress and ask them to support this important legislation that would stop some people from abusing the conservation easement deduction.
Private land conservation is proven to bring with it many good economic, health, and environmental benefits. We must ensure these benefits continue.
You can help.
Here are some easy and effective ways to take action and learn more today.
**To identify and contact your member of Congress, click here. While an email in your own words would be most effective, you can use the following as your starting point:
Dear Senator / Representative [NAME],
I’m writing today to ask for your support of S. 170 / H.R. 1992, also known as the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act.
I believe strongly in private land conservation and I appreciate the many good economic, health and environmental benefits that land conservation gives us. Land conservation is something that Congress has rightly chosen to support in the past by granting limited financial rewards to honest donors. But I know now that a few bad actors are abusing the system that grants those rewards. This should not be allowed to continue. At the same time, well-intentioned donations should not be hindered. This bill achieves both goals.
Please support S. 170 / H.R. 1992 and please consider becoming a cosponsor. This bill is extremely important to me.
You can visit the Land Trust Alliance’s website to read more about this important problem, what Congress is doing, and ways for you to take further action.