The Pennsylvania Land Trust Association joins the Land Trust Alliance in praising Congress for voting to make permanent a tax incentive supporting land conservation.

In a strong bipartisan action, the House voted 318-109 and the Senate voted 65-33 to pass the bills that included the tax incentive.

Farmers, ranchers, the public and generations of future Americans will directly benefit from the incentive that encourages landowners to place a conservation easement on their land to protect important natural, scenic and historic resources. The Alliance led its more than 1,100 member land trusts and 5 million supporters through a collaborative, multi-year campaign to secure the incentive’s permanency.

First enacted in 2006, the incentive is directly responsible for conserving more than 2 million acres of America’s natural outdoor heritage. Lands placed into conservation easements continue to be farmed, grazed, hunted or used for outdoor recreation and wildlife conservation, and these lands remain on county tax rolls, strengthening local economies.

Congress made the incentive permanent as part of a broad, year-end deal the White House supports. Once signed into law, the incentive will be applied retroactively to start Jan. 1, 2015. An earlier version of the incentive expired Dec. 31, 2014.

“As much as this moment energizes me and all who support land conversation, I know our work is not done,” said Andrew Bowman, who will become president of the Alliance when Wentworth retires Feb. 10. “The Alliance has cultivated in Washington and beyond a nonpartisan enthusiasm for land conservation and will build on that consensus to generate essential and lasting support for conservation.”

The incentive advanced through Congress as part of the America Gives More Act, a package of tax incentives to encourage charitable giving. It passed the House earlier this year, 279-137. A standalone version of the incentive, the Conservation Easement Incentive Act, earned 52 Senate sponsors this year. The agreement announced today also encourages donations to food banks and facilitates charitable deductions from IRAs.

“As we celebrate this landmark moment in land conservation, we are immensely grateful to our many champions in Congress, notably including Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly, who was an original sponsor of this legislation and tirelessly worked with us toward this pivotal day,” Rand Wentworth, LTA’s outgoing Executive Director said. “This vote represents what Rep. Kelly has long recognized: It is in all our best interests to permanently protect important natural, scenic and historic resources for public benefit.”

“This commonsense, bipartisan legislation is about supporting farmers who want to preserve our nation’s most cherished natural resources for future generations,” said Rep. Mike Kelly (PA), lead sponsor of the House bill to make the incentive permanent. “Since 2006, conservation easements have conserved hundreds of thousands of acres of America’s farmland and open space for hunting, fishing, hiking and locally-sourced food production.”