Earlier in January, Senator Steve Daines of Montana introduced S. 170, the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act of 2019, alongside bill co-sponsor Debbie Stabenow. The bill, in Daines’ words, would make “several important changes to the tax incentive that will help curb abuses and make sure that [conservation easements] remain an important conservation tool.”
Partnership for Conservation (P4C) agrees with Senators Daines and Stabenow that conservation easement legislation should encourage law-abiding taxpayers to protect our environment for generations to come and also curb abusive behavior. But S. 170 would hinder conservation, and here are three reasons why:
Our country is already losing around 6,000 acres a day to development. Policymakers on both sides of the aisle are sounding the alarm on climate change, which increasingly threatens habitats, species and human livelihoods. Uncertainty surrounding our environment’s future requires innovation – which conservation partnerships provide.
Conservation partnerships are a vitally important tool for conserving our nation’s precious lands, a tool that is working as Congress intended, protecting hundreds of thousands of acres of open space from being lost forever. Common-sense improvements to the legislation governing conservation partnerships can and should be made, like any decades-old legislation. But let’s not do it at the detriment of conservation reaching greater and more effective heights, as S. 170 would.
P4C remains committed to working with Congress, the public and all conservation stakeholders to advance meaningful legislative reforms that eliminate rare instances of abuse but ensure conservation partnerships can continue for generations to come. If we are to successfully address the growing challenges facing our communities and our environment, all tools must remain on the table.