Lawmakers should support the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act

Common-sense legislation will preserve valuable conservation tool that has saved redwood forests

Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. Photo by Jon Parmentier
Conservation easements are a valuable tool for protecting redwood forests. Photo by Jon Parmentier

Save the Redwoods League is encouraging lawmakers to support an important new law called the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act. This law would strengthen one of the most valuable conservation tools we have for protecting coast redwood and giant sequoia forests on private land.

Throughout its history, Save the Redwoods League has employed a number of ways to protect coast redwood and giant sequoia forests. In some circumstances, we’ve encouraged governments at the local, state, and federal levels to set aside important tracts not just for protection, but also for parks. In other instances, we’ve raised private funds to purchase forests from private landowners to ensure lasting protection for the trees.

The conservation easement is another important land protection tool that the League uses. An entity purchases or otherwise secures a voluntary, legal agreement that permanently limits uses of the land  to protect its conservation values. For example, the League might acquire all logging or development rights to a property while the fee title remains with the existing owner.

In some cases, a federal tax incentive facilitates the donation of conservation easements. Landowners can protect the places they love by donating a conservation easement and then taking a charitable deduction based on the fair market value of the easement. This is a good option for landowners who may have no other alternative to ensure the land is conserved as they wish.

Congress put the incentive in place to reward those who engage in true charity. Unfortunately, a few bad actors have exploited this tax incentive, making large profits at the expense of taxpayers. That’s why the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act was created.

This legislation would prevent abuse while ensuring the vast majority of conservation easements can continue to go forward as truly charitable endeavors. To best target the most common schemes, and to ensure that legitimate conservation transactions are not impacted, the bill focuses on transactions that generate profits over a short period of time (three years or fewer) and also includes an exception for family partnerships. This legislation is concise, sensible, and ready for passage in the House and Senate.

Now, Congress has the perfect opportunity to stop this abuse and protect taxpayers while ensuring that tax incentives for land conservation remain available for genuine philanthropists. That is why Save the Redwoods League supports the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act, and is encouraging our friends in Congress to cosponsor this important legislation.

About the author

Jessica Little joined Save the Redwoods League as Director of Government Affairs and Public Funding in 2020. Little comes to Save the Redwoods League from Environmental & Energy Consulting, a government relations consulting firm based in Sacramento that works closely with the League. For the past five years, Little has developed and led public funding strategies for numerous environmental protection and conservation objectives statewide. Her previous experience includes six years with Conservation Strategy Group, another Sacramento government affairs consultant with which the League has worked. She has been integral to the implementation and development of programs funded through state resources bonds and other funding measures. Little, who is based in Sacramento, earned a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies from California State University, Sacramento.


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