Featured photo: Land Trust Alliance President Rand Wentworth

The Land Trust Alliance, a national land conservation organization working to save the places people love by strengthening land conservation across America, welcomed the 50th sponsor of the Conservation Easement Incentive Act in Congress.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) joins 23 other Republican, 24 Democratic and two Independent senators to support a tax incentive benefitting farmers, ranchers and other landowners. In exchange for placing a conservation easement on their lands to permanently protect important natural, scenic and historic resources for public benefit, participating landowners received limited tax benefits through a temporary incentive that expired Dec. 31, 2014.

This bill, which would renew and make permanent the incentive, is among the tax extenders pending before Congress for action before Dec. 31, 2015.

“Senators across the political spectrum – from Sen. Bernie Sanders to Sen. Lindsey Graham – support making this conservation tax incentive permanent,” said Rand Wentworth, the Alliance’s president. “It’s good policy. It’s a proven success. And it’s time to make this happen.”

First enacted in 2006, the incentive is directly responsible for conserving more than 2 million acres of America’s natural outdoor heritage. Lands placed into conservation easements continue to be farmed, grazed, hunted or used for outdoor recreation and wildlife conservation, and these lands remain on county tax rolls, strengthening local economies.

“Conservation easements are the modern face of land conservation:  a completely voluntary, non-governmental and non-regulatory approach to land conservation that gives landowners more choices,” Wentworth said. “They’re inexpensive, simple and effective.”

The Alliance, its members and allies strove in late 2014 to make the incentive permanent as part of the bipartisan Supporting America’s Charities Act. That act fell just short of the two-thirds support it needed from voting members to meet a procedural requirement. The final vote was 275-149, reflecting 65 percent support. The Conservation Easement Incentive Act, S. 330, enjoys similarly broad support; 408 sitting members of Congress cosponsored or voted for similar legislation in previous years. Additionally, the Obama administration supports making the tax incentive permanent.

Sponsors of the Conservation Easement Incentive Act are Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), lead sponsor Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Angus King (I-Maine), Mike Kirk (R-Ill.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.),  Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), co-lead sponsor Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), David Vitter (R-La.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).