Land Trusts are one of the most effective tools used to protect open space, now protecting 9.5 million acres in the Untied States. Even with the recent problems the Washington Post revealed regarding the largest land trust, The Nature Conservancy, which you can read here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&contentId=A17384-2003Dec20¬Found=true
land trusts are still wonderful tools.
There are problems however, including the perpetual removal of land from taxation, which dramatically effects local government funding and future land-use decision-making.
This excellent paper from the Property Environment Research Center (PERC) addresses those issues.
Conservation Easements: A Closer Look at Federal Tax Policy
By Dominic P. Parker
Bipartisan support for conservation easements exists because politicians know that this program works and brings important benefits to communities throughout the country." —Land Trust Alliance
Land trusts and one of their important tools, conservation easements, are major forces in today's environmental movement. Conservation easements are partial interests in land that prohibit intense development. They have helped conserve millions of acres of valuable open space, wildlife habitat, river corridors, and wetlands.
One factor motivating conservation easements has been federal tax policy, which allows landowners who donate easements to obtain tax benefits. This policy has led to criticism of some trusts for their use of conservation easements. In this essay' "Conservation Easements: A closer Look at Federal Tax Policy," Dominic P. Parker examines the impact of tax policy on the use of easements and recommends some changes in current policy to better serve the American public.
PERC, the Property and Environment Research Center, is a nonprofit institute dedicated to improving environmental quality through property rights and markets. This paper is part of the PERC Policy Series, which addresses timely topics involving markets and environmental issues.
It is also part of the Dufresne Foundation series of essays, which seek to reconcile environmental and economic pressures, especially in the western United States.
About the Author
Domnic P. Parker is a doctoral student in environmental economics and science at the University of California at Santa Barbara, and also serves as a PERC Senior Research Fellow. He has a master's degree in applied economics from Montana State University. In addition to studying conservation easements while at PERC, he researched wildlife management, water, and Indian reservation economies.
For the PERC site and a pdf link to the report: http://www.perc.org/publications/policyseries/conservation_easements.php