General Assembly eyes further cuts to land conservation

By Dennis Brack

The Virginia General Assembly kicked off its 2017 session yesterday (Jan. 11), and with a budget shortfall weighing heavily on the minds of our legislators a lot of cuts are being discussed. Of particular concern to those working to protect our land and water resources is HB 1470, which would substantially reduce the tax incentives for land conservation.

The Piedmont Environmental Council, along with our conservation and preservation allies, have worked in good faith with the legislature in previous years to make modest changes and cuts to the program in order to head off threats of larger cuts.

Now is the time to defend one of the most successful conservation programs in the nation.

In the last five years, we have seen the program capped at $100 million, and lowered again in 2014 to $75 million. It is clear to us that the calls to cut the program will not stop no matter how much we compromise.

The Land Preservation Tax Credit is good for human health and the environment. It leverages private dollars toward the preservation of public benefits, including protecting the water we drink, conserving the farms that grow our food, and saving special places that have shaped our history and provide us with places to hike, ride and camp.

When the General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission looked at the Commonwealth’s tax preferences in 2012, they highlighted the land preservation tax credit as one of the few tax credits that is effectively meeting its goals. It has been responsible for the conservation of over 741,000 acres of land in Virginia since 2000.

Call or write your delegate and senator before this bill is acted on by committee to let them know that funding for land conservation is important to you and for the investment in the Commonwealth’s rural economy and natural resources.

Chris Miller
President, Piedmont Environmental Council

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