Land Conservation Policy

Land Conservation Policy

There are an array of public policy decisions at the local, state and federal level that impact land conservation in the Piedmont. We'll let you know when and where to speak up or take action. You can also check here for information about the economic benefits of land conservation, as well as the various tax criteria and incentives available to protect land.
  • PEC Report on the The Economic Benefits of Natural Goods and Services

    Virginia receives a myriad of economic benefits from its natural resources in the form of market products, non-market services, and added value.

    Using a value transfer approach, this study leverages the results of pre-existing studies to quantify the estimated annual contribution of nine such natural services – water quality, water supply, pollination, recreation, forest products, farm products, disturbance prevention, habitat, and carbon sequestration – to be approximately $21.8 billion.

    Read the Report

     

On August 27, 2018 the IRS proposed new regulations changing how it would characterize state income tax credits (such as the Virginia Land Preservation Tax Credit “LPTC”) that are received when people make charitable gifts. If this rule passes, landowners who donate conservation easements would have to count the Virginia LPTC issued to them as a payment and their federal income tax deduction would be reduced by the value of the state tax credits received.

This would be a significant change to long standing federal tax treatment of these types of state credits that would negatively impact the rate of land conservation in Virginia and other states with similar programs. Take a look at the summary of PEC's concerns regarding the proposed rule. For more detailed analysis of the proposed rule, see the policy brief prepared for PEC by Timothy Lindstrom, Esq, which provides a in-depth analysis of how the proposed rule is inconsistent existing IRS practice and/or will likely slow the rate of land conservation in Virginia.

There is a 45-day comment period that began on August 27, 2018 and ends on October 11, 2018. You can comment on this proposal online at: https://federalregister.gov/d/2018-18377

A public hearing is scheduled in Washington, DC for November 5, 2018.

Successful land conservation requires action at all levels to protect the Commonwealth’s diverse landscapes. Land conservation is critical in achieving measurable goals on protecting water quality, water supply, climate resiliency, and the Chesapeake Bay. State agencies, local communities, and private individuals need the right tools to protect working farms and forests, scenic landscapes, natural areas, wildlife habitat and game lands, historic resources, and parks and recreational areas for Virginia’s present and future generations. Virginia currently has a variety of programs and approaches that can deliver lasting results across the Commonwealth.

The following text is based off of a January 2017 joint letter from the Valley Conservation Council, Shenandoah Valley Network and The Piedmont Environmental Council. The letter was mailed to conservation easement holders, but the content is relevant to all Virginians.


A decision is being considered that could have a profound and lasting effect on the integrity of conservation easement programs in Virginia.

The Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) is being aggressively pressured by Dominion Resources, Inc. to allow the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) to cross a block of properties held in conservation easement. The ACP is a high-pressure gas pipeline that would extend across Virginia, from West Virginia to North Carolina. If allowed, this pipeline would be the largest intrusion onto protected properties in the 50-year history of Virginia’s conservation easement program.

On February 9, 2017, VOF is scheduled to consider Dominion’s application to permanently impair conservation values on 10 VOF easements in exchange for other conservation lands. Virginia state code (Va. Code Ann. §10.1-1704) provides very narrow provisions for such exchanges, requiring that the proposed project be “in accordance with the official comprehensive plan for the locality” and “essential to the orderly development and growth of the locality.” The proposed gas transmission pipeline meets neither requirement.

PEC Comments to VOF on June 22, 2017: "...As we did at your February 9th meeting in regard to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, PEC encourages the VOF Board to vote NO on the Mountain Valley Pipeline request for a 1704 Conversion/Diversion to allow an industrial access road through the “Terry Property” in Roanoke County..."

The Virginia General Assembly will kick off on January 11, 2017, and with a budget shortfall weighing heavily on the minds of our legislators, a lot of cuts are being discussed. Of particular concern is HB 1470, which would substantially reduce the tax incentives for land conservation.

We are excited to announce that Congress recently passed legislation to permanently enhance the federal income tax deduction for the donation of a conservation easement. The new law allows conservation easement donors to deduct their donation at the rate of 50 percent of their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) per year, and they can carry forward any excess contribution for as many as 15 years. Further, a qualified farmer can deduct their easement donation at the rate of 100 percent of AGI per year, potentially paying no federal income tax for the next 15 years.

UPDATE: On Feb 12, 2016, the Virginia Supreme Court issued a ruling in Wetlands America Trust, Inc. v. White Cloud Nine Ventures, L.P. The decision by the Virginia Supreme Court affirms the validity of perpetual conservation easements in the Commonwealth. Troublingly though, the court clarified the standard of review for conservation easements as “strict construction,” which means the presumption on any ambiguity will be a finding in favor of the “free use of land.”

At a practical level, the ruling will impact how land trusts steward current easements and underscores the importance of specificity in the drafting of future easements.

This year, the General Assembly passed an important and exciting bill related to land conservation in Virginia -- a bill that would help fund programs that protect working farms, drinking water supply areas, battlefields and lands for public recreation. But time is running out for Governor McDonnell to sign the bill into law. Find out more in PEC's March 21, 2013 Email Alert.

Conservation Questions?

Our Land Conservation Staff work throughout the Piedmont.

Find the PEC staff person nearest you.

For general questions, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Free Easement Packet

Important information about conservation easements -- including a sample PEC Easement and guidelines on how to proceed with donating a easement.

Search Our Site

Follow Us On...