Giving Credit for Conservation
In Massachusetts, about 25 percent of land is protected and 22 percent is developed, which means the other 53 percent is still up for grabs or will be at some point in the future. One powerful tool for ensuring that more of that remaining land ends up protected is the state’s Conservation Land Tax Credit (CLTC).
This credit is available to landowners who conserve their land by donating it outright or by discounting the sale of it, or by donating or discounting the sale of a Conservation Restriction (CR). CRs limit future development by removing some or all of the development potential of the property, without transferring ownership. The transaction can be with a government environmental agency, or with a private land trust, like Mass Audubon, with the involvement of such a government partner or another land trust. For a land transaction to fit CLTC criteria, it must permanently protect an important natural resource such as wildlife habitat, drinking water, or forested land. Through the program, landowners can receive up to 50 percent of the value of the donation, via a direct tax credit of up to $75,000.
This maximum credit is higher than the previous limit, thanks to legislation that Mass Audubon worked on last session. We are now working to increase the total that the state can spend on the program, from $2 million to $5 million. Our goal is to encourage many more private landowners to conserve their property using this powerful incentive.
Protecting more land isn’t only about conserving valuable natural resources—it’s also about preparing for climate change. Intact natural landscapes such as floodplains and beach dunes provide us with more effective protection from impacts such as increasingly frequent storms and sea-level rise. Conservation plus public safety—it’s a win-win for Massachusetts.