In the wake of Metallica rocker James Hetfield’s donation of two conservation easements to Marin County, California, I began to notice announcements of other large easement donations. For example, this one, by the Big Sur Land Trust, over the 1,107-acre Colinas Ranch, north of Salinas, California. Or this one, over the largest farm in Kent County, Maryland–almost 2,900 acres including 9.2 miles of Chesapeake Bay shoreline–to be held by the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy and Maryland Environmental Trust.
It would be hard to choose which of these easements is the greatest gift to the public good. Colinas Ranch, owned by Dr. Ron Stoney and Linda Stoney supports a crucial wildlife corridor between the Gabilan and Santa Cruz mountain ranges, frequented by mountain lions, black-tailed deer, foxes, coyotes and bobcats. Preventing development of Andelot Farm, owned by Louisa Duemling, will help preserve habitat and the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay, that most threatened of East Coast estuaries.
No one should ever question the conservation intent behind such significant donations of land value. But this flurry of easement donations two weeks before a federal tax deduction for easements is set to expire may suggest the importance of that incentive in moving these conservation deals forward.
TPLs Federal Affairs staff reported on the expiring incentive in the last Washington Watch email newsletter, available by free subscription. As of the moment, the reauthorization of the amendment–like everything else in Washington that isn’t about health care–is stalled until after the new year. Most observers believe that the deduction eventually will be reauthorized and made retroactive. But laws aren’t made until the votes are counted, and if you have a huge, valuable easement to donate, it kind of makes sense finish up the paperwork now.