6,000 acres of land are lost every day to development

Our lands and wildlife need you to step up now to protect them from development.

Tell your legislator: Stand up against threats to private land conservation. 

Dear [Lawmaker],

With over 6,000 acres of U.S. land lost daily to development, private land conservation is critical to protect our wildlife and drinking water and to combat climate change. Today, I write to ask you to stand up for the ability of more Americans to participate in land conservation so that future generations can enjoy the beautiful land, rivers and wildlife of our state.

A conservation easement is a voluntary, legally binding agreement that limits the future use, modification or development of land forever. Under current law, to make an easement donation, an individual, a family or a partnership of individuals permanently gives up the land’s development rights to a qualified land trust.

In the late 1970s, Congress amended the tax code to allow landowners to claim a tax deduction for the donation of an easement. And to further encourage conservation, a bipartisan majority in Congress passed enhanced federal tax benefits for easement donations in 2006 and made the policy permanent in 2015.

The policy has worked as intended – more land has been conserved. For the past 40 years, conservation easements, including those donated by partnerships, have played a critical role in the protection of our nation’s lands. Between 2005 and 2015, for example, individuals, families and partnerships permanently preserved nearly 20 million acres – sadly this trend faces a serious threat.

Landowners must sometimes make hard choices between conserving the natural areas they love and accepting the tempting offers of eager developers. The tax benefits that Congress established help make the decision to conserve easier.

While sensible reforms should be advanced to prevent abuse, it would be inexcusable if purported reforms led to less land being conserved. Unfortunately, both through bureaucratic action at the IRS and proposed legislation in Congress, land conservation is being put at risk.

In particular, legislation currently before Congress (S.170/ H.R. 1992) misses the mark. Not only would this legislation result in less land being conserved in the future, it is retroactive. This means that people who as far back as five years ago gave up their right to develop their land would now owe money to the IRS - even after acting in accordance with the law in effect at that time. This is just wrong.

This is why I urge you to stand against this legislation so that Americans from all walks of life can continue to come together and protect important lands for generations to come.

Thank you for your continued leadership!

[Your Name]

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