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Big Gains in Voluntary Land Conservation Despite Recession
Posted on 11/16/2011
First National Census of Land Trusts in Five Years
Visalia, CA – The first census of land trusts in five years found 10 million new acres conserved nationwide since 2005, including more than 6 thousands acres by Sequoia Riverlands Trust in Fresno, Kings, Kern and Tulare counties.
The National Land Trust Census, released by the Land Trust Alliance, shows that voluntarily protected land increased 27 percent between 2005 and 2010. In the same time period, the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, a major federal conservation program, added just over 500,000 acres and saw a 38% funding cut. The census is online at www.lta.org/census.
A total of 47 million acres—an area over twice the size of all the national parks in the contiguous United States—are now protected by land trusts. A greater percentage of the new acreage comes through local and state land trusts like Sequoia Riverlands Trust in Visalia, California which conserved 6,274 acres between 2005 and 2010.
Californians value their land, and we are conserving it at the community level,” said Soapy Mulholland, Executive Director for Sequoia Riverlands Trust. “Here in California we are investing in our future with land trusts that ensure clean water, local food and places to play for our children and for generations to come. SRT has seen a big increase in interest in our mission to protect working landscapes, wildlife habitat and scenic open spaces while ensuring that economic growth remains vibrant and sustainable in our communities.”
An enhanced tax deduction for conservation easement donations has helped America’s land trusts work with farmers, ranchers and other modest-income landowners to sustain a remarkable pace of more than one million acres protected by conservation easements each year! But if Congress allows this incentive to expire at the end of 2011, fewer landowners will receive tax benefits from the generous donation of development rights on their land.
Sequoia Riverlands Trust thanks Representative Jim Costa (D-CA) for being among the 262 House and 11 Senate co-sponsors of H.R. 1964/S. 339, bills to make this important conservation tax incentive permanent. That’s more co-sponsors than any other tax bill in Congress! We encourage Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA) to join them as co-sponsors of this important legislation.
Other findings of the new National Land Trust Census include:
Land trusts saw a 70% increase in volunteers from the previous 5‐year period.
The preservation of family farms and ranchlands is now a priority for 61% of trusts, up from 21% that listed farmland as the top priority in 2005.
Urban parks, gardens and open space is now a priority for 27 % of trusts, a threefold increase over respondents in 2005.