Trust Our Land: This legislation is monumental
Trust Our Land
Amid the buzz of summertime anew here in Colorado, one can be forgiven if tracking state legislation is not top of mind. Thankfully for the reader, our friends and policy virtuosos at Keep it Colorado are given no such relief. Keep It Colorado’s latest policy update reveals an impressive tally of wins for Colorado’s conservation community.
The first celebratory whoop comes via nine-characters: HB21-1233. The Conservation Easement Enhancement and Rural Stimulus Act, currently awaiting signature on the governor’s desk, aims to increase the efficacy and incentives of conservation easement deals, while also addressing some administrative hiccups.
Per Keep It Colorado, “The bill adjusts the tax credit formula … to allow landowners who are donating an easement to receive up to 90% of the value of their easement in tax credits.” This bolstered incentive structure is a welcome recognition of the many socioeconomic benefits brought about by private lands conservation.
The bill also signals lawmakers’ interest in aligning land and water conservation efforts by adding certain water entities to the list of eligible conservation easement donors. As water and wildfire take center stage in the drought-stricken West, this coupling of conservation easements and water conservation may prove far-sighted.
To offer a tad more exclamation: This legislation is monumental for land trusts and landowners interested in conserving options across the state. Expanded incentives have long been a want for those land trusts to expand their conservation portfolios, particularly as the real estate market remains ascendant. Historically, private landowners have had to make difficult decisions regarding finances and conservation. This change allows landowners to further offset the cost of conserving their property, making conservation an easier choice.
Worries about what this will do to government coffers are well-heeded. In 2000, the general assembly set aside $45 million annually in the form of tax credits for the protection of natural landscapes (i.e. the tax credits landowners receive in exchange for donating conservation easements). Yet that allocation cap has not been approached in the two decades of its existence. The conservation minded will hope that it now can.
Not all wins (and losses) from the state Capitol comprise nine characters, mind you. Next on the list, SB21-249, the Keep Colorado Wild Annual Pass, catalyzes much-needed funding for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in a critical decade for wildlife conservation and recreation balancing. HB21-1318, the Create Outdoor Equity Grant Program, creates an outdoor equity board in the division of parks and wildlife, which will administer a new grant aimed at increasing “access and opportunity for underserved youth and their families to experience Colorado’s open spaces, state parks, public lands and other outdoor areas.” SJR21-021, known as Colorado Habitat Connectivity, is a Senate Joint Resolution that signals support for the state’s wildlife habitat connectivity efforts, including wildlife crossings.
Keep It Colorado directly worked on, supported or tracked all of the aforementioned legislation, along with conservation champions in the state House, including Eagle County’s own Sen. Kerry Donovan and Rep. Dylan Roberts, and Sen. Faith Winter and Rep. Perry Will. We are deeply grateful for the conservation community’s efforts and excited to play a role in this new chapter of land conservation.
Have questions about easements, tax credits, or EVLT? Write to us at email@example.com.
Are you interested in conserving your land? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oliver Skelly is Eagle Valley Land Trust’s community conservation coordinator and can be reached at email@example.com. To learn more about EVLT’s local conservation work and community conservation initiatives, visit EVLT.org.