Gerlach bill championed by the conservancy

A bill introduced by U.S. Rep.Jim Gerlach, R-6, will make permanent a tax incentive
that helps landowners conserve important natural, agricultural and historic
resources in our community. The legislation has received overwhelming
bipartisan support from Congress. More than 300 U.S. Representatives from both
parties are co-sponsors of "The Conservation Easement Incentive Act"
(H.R. 1964). The vast majority of conservation easements held by the Brandywine
Conservancy have been donated by landowners, many of whom benefited from
similar tax incentives.

"Jim Gerlach understands the critical importance of protected open
space and its value to our local communities. We are grateful for his
leadership in sponsoring this bill and appreciate all of the other co-sponsors
from Pennsylvania," said Sherri Evans-Stanton, director of the Conservancy's
Environmental Management Center. As shown on the attached map, in the Chester
County portion of Gerlach's district alone, more than 26,000 acres have been
protected with agricultural and conservation easements. Of that amount, 16,374
acres have been eased to local land trusts. This represents an impressive 11.5
percent of the total land protected by local land trusts in Pennsylvania.

Congressman Gerlach said that of the thousands of bills introduced in the
U.S. House of Representatives during the current session, fewer than 10 have
generated 300 or more co-sponsors.

"This legislation has generated tremendous bipartisan support because
the conservation easement tax credit works," Gerlach said. "The tax
credit gives family farmers, ranchers and other property owners more choices
and creates opportunities for partnerships between non-profit organizations,
federal, state and local officials. With the support of nearly three-quarters
of the House, I am hopeful that conservation easement tax credits will remain an
option for all property owners."

Under the legislation, landowners can retire the development rights on their
land by donating a conservation easement to a land trust like the Brandywine
Conservancy-keeping farm, ranch and forest lands in productive use, protecting
important natural resources, and conserving our scenic and historic heritage.
Since the incentive expired at the end of 2011, landowners with modest incomes
now receive little tax benefit from restricting what may be their family's most
valuable asset. By allowing donors to deduct a larger portion of their income
over a longer period of time, H.R. 1964 will help thousands of family farmers,
ranchers, and forest owners afford to conserve their land

Conservation easements protect the unique treasures found in our
Commonwealth including our drinking water supplies, forests, wildlife habitat,
family farms, historic resources and scenic views. This incentive enhances the
federal tax benefits for landowners who donate conservation easements. These
voluntary agreements help conserve critical resources important to our
community while keeping the land in productive private ownership.

The Brandywine Conservancy holds more than 440 conservation easements and
has permanently protected more than 45,000 acres in Chester and Delaware
counties in Pennsylvania, as well as New Castle County in Delaware. Preserving
open space and family farms helps to maintain the water's quality and quantity.
The Brandywine Watershed, with its streams and tributaries, is a major source
of drinking water for communities in Pennsylvania including Downingtown,
Coatesville, and West Chester. It also is the source of drinking water for the
City of Wilmington, Delaware.

In Pennsylvania, the Conservancy's easement holdings represent more than 17%
of the total acres of land under conservation easement by local land trusts in
the Commonwealth. The Conservancy's two programs, the Brandywine River Museum
and Environmental Management Center, preserve art and the environment. The
Environmental Management Center provides conservation services to landowners,
farmers, municipalities and developers. The staff of professional planners and
natural resource managers offers technical assistance and expertise for
conservation and comprehensive land use planning. Conservation easements,
assistance to local governments and water protection efforts are the key
elements of these programs. In 2008, the Conservancy was among the first land
trusts in the country to be awarded accreditation by the Land Trust
Accreditation Commission.

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