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Lummis co-sponsors landmark agriculture, open space conservation bill

Wyoming Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis joined Congressmen Mike Thompson, D-CA, and Eric Cantor, R-VA, as an original co-sponsor of the Conservation Easement Incentive Act, H.R. 1831. Wyoming's lone congresswoman was one of 93 original co-sponsors of the bill, which will aid in the protection of millions of acres of the nation's agricultural lands and open spaces. H.R. 1831 makes permanent an expiring incentive that allows modest-income landowners to receive significant tax deductions for donating conservation easements that permanently protect important natural or historic resources on their l ands.

"As a former Board Member of the Wyoming Stock Growers Agricultural Land Trust, I have seen how conservation easements can be an important tool for working ranch families," said Congresswoman Lummis. "They can be used as a component of estate planning and help ease the transfer of family ranches from one generation to the next. And most importantly, they help us to maintain the wide open spaces, working ranch lands and western heritage that we all love about Wyoming."

"There has been a 50 percent increase in the number of conservation easement donations since Congress passed my provisions to enhance these tax benefits on a temporary basis in 2006," said Congressman Mike Thompson, D-CA. "It's time we made these protections permanent. By making sure that landowners can count on these enhanced tax benefits, we'll take a big step forward in preserving our agricultural lands and keeping our environment safe from overdevelopment."

"I have seen firsthand how conservation easements are being used by family farms in my district. Providing a permanent tax incentive for conservation easements is a great way to encourage conservation efforts while also reducing the tax burden on these hard working families," said House Republican Whip Eric Cantor, R-VA.

When landowners donate a conservation easement, they maintain ownership and management of their land and can pass the land on to their heirs, while foregoing their rights to develop the land in the future. Congressmen Thompson and Cantor anticipate that their bill, which allows farmers, ranchers and other landowners to deduct a larger share of their income over a longer period of time, will help more families afford to conserve their land.

The bill enjoys broad support from a national coalition of farmers, ranchers, conservationists, outdoor recreation and sportsmen's groups and government officials. A remarkable 93 Representatives from every region of the country have signed on as original co-sponsors of the bill. Representatives Thompson and Cantor are members of the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over all tax measures in Congress.

"These tax incentives are designed to benefit working ranchers and farmers - families whose income is derived primarily from their agricultural operation. While not for everyone, it is critical that our ag community has the broadest range of financial tools available, especially in these challenging times," said Pamela Dewell, Executive Director of the Wyoming Stock Growers Agricultural Land Trust.

"We are thrilled that Congresswoman Lummis has signed on to this important effort. The vast majority of the working ranches the Stock Growers Agricultural Land Trust has conserved have been as a result of the temporary incentives. To date, the Stock Growers Ag Land Trust holds 40 easements on 106,284 acres of working ranch lands. We look forward to continuing this effort with the bi-partisan support of the Conservation Easement Incentive Act."

The enhanced tax incentive allows working family ranchers and farmers, to deduct up to 100 percent of their income for as many as 16 years in order to deduct the full value of their generous gift. First passed in 2006 and extended in the 2008 farm bill, this incentive is set to expire on Dec. 31. The Conservation Easement Incentive Act will make this valuable conservation tool permanent.

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