Guest editorial | ParkRecord.com

Guest editorial

Cheryl Fox, Executive Director, Summit Land Conservancy,

As a local nonprofit conservation organization, the Summit Land Conservancy is pleased about the recent bipartisan congressional vote supporting land conservation.

Farmers, ranchers and the public will directly benefit from the now-permanent tax incentive that encourages landowners to place a conservation easement on their land to protect important natural, scenic and historic resources. Summit Land Conservancy was among the 1,100 land trusts to support the incentive through a collaborative, multi-year campaign.

This legislation will save land here in Summit County. The landowners we work with are giving up tremendous value, and this legislation clarifies what the tax benefits will be, year in and year out.

The Summit Land Conservancy is a member of the national Land Trust Alliance, which coordinated the campaign for permanence.

According to Rand Wentworth, the Alliance’s president, "The importance of this vote and this incentive cannot be overstated. This is the single greatest legislative action in decades to support land conservation. It states, unequivocally, that we as a nation treasure our lands and must conserve their many benefits for all future generations."

First enacted as a temporary provision in 2006, the incentive is directly responsible for conserving more than 2 million acres of America’s natural outdoor heritage. But the incentive was never permanent, expiring and then being reinstated several times over the last nine years. This made it difficult for landowners to know what to expect from conservation transactions, where the tax deduction can be so important.

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Earlier this year, one of Park City’s largest ranchers, Steve Osguthorpe wrote an editorial to The Park Record, noting how useful it would be to have these incentives set in stone. "These are major life decisions," Osguthorpe wrote, "and landowners need certainty, time and permanence in order to plan."

The incentive advanced through Congress as part of the America Gives More Act, a package of tax incentives to encourage charitable giving. In a strong bipartisan action, the House voted 318-109 and the Senate voted 65-33 to pass the bills that included the tax incentive.

The Summit Land Conservancy is proud to have been part of this process, working with Senator Hatch’s office, and meeting with Utah’s congressional delegates, many of whom voted in favor of the bill. The vote shows that land conservation truly has bi-partisan support. Our work here in Park City and Summit County protects private property rights, conserves natural resources and animal habitat, and insures that future generations will enjoy the powerful landscapes that nurture us today. In this divisive world, it’s nice to find something we can all agree on.