For over 100 years, private landowners across the country could voluntarily and permanently protect their lands through conservation easements. Some landowners chose to donate conservation easements purely for the well-being of the land and its associated resources. Many landowners, however, simply could not afford to donate the value of the development rights to their land.
In 2004, the State of New Mexico created the innovative New Mexico Land Conservation Tax Credit by passing the Land Conservation Incentives Act (LCIA). Landowners New Mexico became eligible for a state income tax credit equal to half of the value of their donated conservation easement, up to a maximum credit of $100,000. However, land-rich, cash-poor landowners often didn’t have enough income to fully benefit from federal and state tax incentives.
In 2008, the state raised the maximum conservation easement tax credit to $250,000 and made it transferable. A landowner may donate a conservation easement, earn a tax credit, and sell part or all of the tax credit at a discounted rate to an individual or corporation to offset their own state tax liability. This has made the program much more accessible to lower-income landowners throughout New Mexico and has provided them with tangible economic benefits. For example, cash from the sale of tax credits allows participating landowners to cover the costs of establishing their conservation easements and still have something leftover to pay off debt or reinvest in their land.
To date, more than 115,000 acres of land have been protected permanently throughout New Mexico, at an average taxpayer cost of less than 30 percent of the donated conservation easements’ appraised value. The total fiscal impact to the state has been only about $24 million since the program’s inception (an average of $2 million of revenue annually), making the LCIA a tremendous success for New Mexico.
Protecting critically important private lands in New Mexico ensures the protection, conservation and stewardship of water and other natural resources, wildlife habitat, cultural and historic sites, agricultural productivity and scenic beauty for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations. For more information, see http://www.nmlandconservancy.org.