Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Conservation Easements Threatened

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Conservation Easements Threatened

Article excerpt

The Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina, and Idaho's Sawtooth National Recreation Area were two of the first public recreation resources to be protected by conservation easements. A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and a qualified nonprofit or government organization that restricts future activities on the land to protect its conservation, open space and outdoor recreation or historic values.

Many federal, state and local parks, trails, waterways and wildlife areas have been protected and enhanced by conservation easements. The use of conservation easements dates back to the 1880s as a way to protect parkways developed by Frederick Law Olmsted, but it wasn't until the late 1970s that all states except Wyoming enacted conservation easement statutes. The use of this land conservation tool has grown rapidly since the 1990s by non-profit land trusts and government agencies.

Today, Congress is scrutinizing the federal tax incentives that encourage the donation of conservation lands and easements that include charitable donation tax deductions and reduced capital gains tax liability. Unfortunately, a few incidents of inflated property value appraisals and lax enforcement of the terms of the easement agreement have made skeptics out of some of our lawmakers. …

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