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Your Views: Make incentives permanent to conserve precious lands

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August 28, 2014

As the U.S. population continues to expand over the next several decades, open lands for farming, grazing, fishing, hunting and hiking will become increasingly hard to find. One of the most cost-effective tools to conserve these precious lands is known as a conservation easement (CE), whereby a local landowner voluntarily donates the future development rights to his or her land in exchange for a limited federal tax benefit.

In 2006, Congress gave this method of land conservation a major boost by passing an enhanced federal tax deduction for landowners who are willing to donate CEs; however, this bill expired at the end of last year.

Fortunately, there is broad-based bipartisan support in Washington for Senate Bill S.526, which will make the CE tax incentive permanent. But we must act now as time is of the essence. The equivalent House bill passed July 17, and S.526 needs to be passed when the Senate reconvenes. This is a unique opportunity to make the incentive permanent once and for all.

The CE enhanced incentive is a win-win solution for Wisconsin, protecting natural resources important to our community while keeping our lands in productive private ownership and management. Kettle Moraine Land Trust holds four conservation easements that protect lands in three Walworth County towns. Please e-mail our two senators, Ron Johnson (www.ronjohnson.senate.gov), and Tammy Baldwin (www.baldwin.senate.gov), and ask that they co-sponsor S.526 when the Senate reconvenes.

JERRY PETERSEN

Elkhorn

President, Kettle Moraine Land Trust



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