Let's safeguard taxpayers and encourage conservation

The Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act — legislation that would halt abuse in the federal conservation easement program — was reintroduced today in Congress.

By Andrew Bowman June 24, 2021

The Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act — legislation that would halt abuse in the federal conservation easement program — was reintroduced today in Congress. And on behalf of the Land Trust Alliance and its nearly 1,000 member land trusts, I thank Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon, Steve Daines of Montana, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Chuck Grassley of Iowa along with Reps. Mike Thompson of California and Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania for making this happen.

The time has come to safeguard taxpayers and ensure the continued viability and integrity of this successful program. Congress must pass the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act this year.

Lobbyists working against the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act claim it would hinder land conservation. But even a cursory examination of the facts shows this is patently false. Each year, approximately 2,000 to 2,500 conservation donations are made by landowners for truly charitable purposes. Such donations total about $1 billion in claimed deductions per year. That stands in sharp contrast with the $9.2 billion claimed by 296 entities — bad actors gaming the system through abusive transactions — in 2018 alone. If these bad actors are allowed to continue, their actions could destroy a longstanding and successful program. It is these bad actors, not this good legislation, that stand to hinder land conservation. Passing the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act will safeguard the taxpaying public while ensuring the incentive for land conservation remains available for landowners acting with true charitable intent.

Additionally, lobbyists have claimed the effective date of the bill is retroactive. But that’s a disingenuous argument. The effective date of the legislation is the actual date the IRS placed these bad actors on notice and told them to halt their abusive transactions. Maintaining the effective date will ensure that funds taken from taxpayers and pocketed by these bad actors will be returned. Any attempts to shift the effective date are de facto attempts to protect the massive profiteering these bad actors have enjoyed.

I invite you to learn more about the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act and why it’s needed, then join our efforts to pass this critically needed legislation. Together, we can halt abuse in the federal conservation easement program.