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Donation appreciated

To the Valley News:

In late December, Richard and Leanna DeNeale donated a conservation easement to Champlain Area Trails that will keep their farmland open for farming, preserve their beautiful forest, protect clean water, and provide the public with a hiking/skiing trail. We thank them for this generous act and for their vision of open lands surrounding our scenic and historic hamlets. Stay tuned for the first public hikes on the new trail which we plan to open this summer.

The DeNeales and other donors of conservation easements (which are landowner agreements to encourage sustainable actions like best forest and agricultural management practices and restrict certain uses like haphazard residential development) may qualify for state and federal incentives to conserve open space, productive land, wildlife habitat, clean water, and scenic vistas. These incentives provide income tax benefits and state reimbursements of 25 percent of the property taxes up to $5,000.

Landowners should welcome the good news that Congress recently voted to protect clean water, natural areas and working family farms by extending the enhanced federal tax benefits for landowners who donate conservation easements to organizations like Champlain Area Trails, Open Space Institute, NE Wilderness Trust, and The Nature Conservancy. These agreements help conserve natural resources important to the Champlain Valley and Adirondacks while keeping land in productive private ownership.

Unfortunately, this incentive is not permanent and will expire on Dec. 31, 2013. The enhanced incentive has helped land trusts work with willing landowners to increase the pace of conservation in the U.S. by a third—to about a million acres per year, but the short timeframe of this extension limits its effectiveness. Champlain Area Trails joins America’s 1,700 land trusts and their two million supporters in calling on Congress to make this important conservation tool permanent this year.

We thank Representative Bill Owens and Senator Kirstin Gillibrand for co-sponsoring legislation in the last Congress to make this incentive permanent. Thanks to thoughtful landowners and a helping hand from the new 113th Congress, conservation organizations will be able to conserve even more land this year and keep our farms and working forests in production. In the central Champlain Valley, a generous private donation to our conservation partner, the Open Space Institute, will provide tremendous help in our effort to save land, protect clean water, and make trails. We encourage interested landowners to contact us (962-2287) to explore these new conservation opportunities.

Chris Maron

Champlain Area Trails

Westport

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