Policy Definitions

Substantial State Investment

The foundation of an effective land conservation program is strong fiscal commitment on the part of the state government through a stable revenue source. Substantial and direct state investment fosters program development and long-term vision. Some existing state programs rely on a single revenue stream, while others use a combination of dedicated revenue sources. Commonly utilized revenue sources across the county are general obligation bonds (California, Maine, and Ohio), budget appropriations (Arizona, Utah, Montana, and North Carolina, ), lottery proceeds (Colorado, Minnesota, and Oregon), sales taxes (Arkansas, Minnesota, Missouri and New Jersey), real estate transfer taxes (Florida, Maryland, Delaware, Hawai'i, and Washington), and a deed-recording fee (New Hampshire, Massachusetts). Other state revenue sources include license plate revenues, hunting and fishing license fees, and hotel/motel taxes.

Enable Local Financing

Federal and state governments are limited, in high demand, and by themselves cannot meet land conservation needs. Accordingly, state-enabling legislation that allows communities to fill in the gaps for land conservation funding is crucial. When states provide local governments with the legal authority to tax and dedicate revenues for land conservation, local dollars and local control are expanded. Common local financing options include the property tax, local option sales tax, general obligation bonds, real estate transfer taxes, special assessment district fees, and budget appropriations.

State Incentives for Local Land Conservation

State incentives for local land conservation strengthen partnerships between state and local governments and nonprofit entities. These catalysts, often in the form of matching grants and low-interest loans, encourage local governments and nonprofit conservation organizations to develop programs and create financing mechanisms to leverage state funds.

Purchase of Development Rights

Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) is an effective device for permanent open space and farmland protection. Under a PDR program, landowners voluntarily place easements on their property in exchange for payment. To support PDR programs, states may pass PDR enabling legislation, work cooperatively with local governments to purchase easements, appropriate funds to local governments and nonprofits, and increase support for land conservation. A PDR program helps maximize conservation dollars while allowing for continued private land ownership.

Public -Private Partnerships

Partnerships between governmental entities and private, nonprofit organizations join private desires and public goals to protect natural resources, leverage scarce conservation resources, and broaden the base of support for land conservation. Potential partners include land trusts, neighborhood and community groups, foundations, national conservation organizations, and landowner groups.

Conservation Tax Credits

State laws can provide income or other tax credits to private landowners who donate land or easements to public or private, nonprofit entities for land conservation purposes. Tax incentive programs offer a strong supplement to other open space funding programs by encouraging private, voluntary land conservation. In particular, when combined with existing federal and state charitable deductions, conservation tax credits may make conservation a more attractive option for landowners over development. Tax credits may be targeted to state-specific objectives such as wetlands or farmland protection. The following states have enacted land conservation income tax credits: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, South Carolina, and Virginia.

Federal Partnerships

Partnerships between the federal government and state and local governments optimize scarce dollars and boost local land conservation activity. Federal programs such the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Forest Legacy Program, Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, and Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program encourage state and local governments to become actively involved in land protection by providing matching funds for the purchase and protection of recreation lands, forest lands, farm and ranch lands, and coastal and estuarine lands, respectively.

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