Editorial: Land, lots of land

Renewed tax incentives convince landowners to preserve property
Mar. 05, 2013 @ 11:58 PM

Foothills Land Conservancy provides an important service to area landowners, helping them to preserve their property after they die by limiting development and usage. This is done through tax incentives that can be offered to the landowner to make it worth his while to leave the land in a perpetual, natural state.

Foothills counts on those tax incentives to convince skeptical landowners, and now the agency has a weapon to use in their pitch. Congress renewed a tax incentive for private landowners, especially working family farmers and ranchers, who wish to protect their land with a voluntary conservation agreement. The incentive, which had expired at the end of 2011, was approved in 2012 and helps Foothills work with willing landowners.

Foothills had a hand in conserving over 13,000 acres of agricultural lands and natural areas between 2006 and 2011. Sevier County residents may remember that the late Marian Oates did this to her property atop Bluff Mountain between Sevierville and Seymour. Conservation-minded landowners have until Dec. 31 to take advantage of what Foothills calls a significant tax deduction for donating a voluntary conservation agreement to permanently protect important resources on their land.

It can be a bit daunting to win over a landowner, but here is what they need to know. When they donate a conservation easement to Foothills Land Conservancy, they maintain ownership and management of their land and can sell or pass the land on to their heirs, while foregoing future development rights.

“Our region benefits when thoughtful landowners conserve their land this way, protecting wildlife habitat, clean drinking water, scenic landscapes, and productive agricultural lands,” said FLC Execuive Director Bill Clabough. "Conservation agreements have become an important tool nationally for protecting our watersheds, farms and forests, increasing the pace of private land conservation by a third – to over a million acres a year. Foothills Land Conservancy joins America’s 1,700 land trusts and their two million supporters in thanking Congress for making this important conservation tool available."

Let's hope it swaps some landowners.