What are conservation partnerships, and how do these donations occur?
Land is a valuable, appreciating asset that often represents a sizable percentage of a landowner’s total personal wealth. Landowners with less income, or lower income-tax obligations, may not be able to make the decision to conserve their land, because they need cash and financial resources today. Selling to developers, however, is not the only option. What few landowners realize is that they may be able to conserve their land and still receive some cash compensation by teaming up with several family members, friends, or a group of unrelated individuals. Together, these parties form a partnership and later make a conservation easement donation, where the members collectively can utilize the tax incentive and conserve the property in perpetuity.
Donations from conservation partnerships allow environmentally valuable land to be conserved permanently. Approximately 20 million acres of land, roughly the size of the state of South Carolina, have been conserved since the current tax incentive was created in 2006. With more lands being conserved than ever before, this tax deduction should be preserved and even enlarged as public and government funding for easements dries up.
How do conservation partnerships benefit the public?
Conservation partnerships are a crucial tool in the effort to protect our nation’s most important land and environmental resources. With less available public funding, significant new sources of private funding are required to preserve land and protect our resources for future generations. Whether owned by an individual, a family partnership or an investment partnership that purchases and owns land, these private options play an important role in financing needed conservation projects. Conservation partnerships represent a win-win-win scenario because they: (a) allow environmentally valuable land to be conserved, (b) maintain urban open space to support outdoor recreation or sustainable agriculture; (c) provide needed sources of funding to land trusts outside of just wealthy individual landowners and (d) cost the federal government no more than if the donation came from an independently wealthy individual; and
Why are the IRS and some organizations representing land trusts concerned about conservation partnerships?
Conservation easements from investment partnerships have expanded conservation beyond just very rich, some fear that their increased use will result in abuses. In reality, abusive donations are rare and are no more likely to occur with a partnership than with donations by a wealthy individual. The key to avoiding abuse in any context is to ensure that the appraisals are legitimate.
CURE agrees that common sense improvements can and should be made to the conservation easement legislation (section 170(h) of the Internal Revenue Code). As a member of the Partnership for Conservation (P4C), CURE has adopted a proven set of Best Practices including detailed recommendations to help landowners identify qualified appraisers, substantiate the highest and best use for their property, and confirm the appraised value. CURE also supports P4C’s legislative proposals to address the concerns of some members of Congress and the IRS with the objective of ensuring more important land is preserved. CURE believes that, if done correctly, conservation partnerships can benefit property owners, the environment, developers and governmental agencies alike. Please join us in supporting P4C’s important efforts on behalf of the environment.
Learn about types of partnerships that have resulted in great success stories:
Best Practices for Conservation Partnerships:
*Deliver on Conservation Purpose
*Examine Land Trust
*Validate Qualified Appraiser Credentials
*Validate Appraisal Value
*Substantiate HBU and Market Feasibility
*Examine Property Title Thoroughly
*Survey and Document Property
*Verify Building Sites with Precision
*Pursue Third-Party Review
Learn more about each of these practices here: