THE PAUL COVERDELL HOMESTEAD OPEN SPACE PRESERVATION AND
SUMMARY OF BILL
REPRESENTATIVE JOHNNY ISAKSON PRIMARY SPONSOR
- GOAL: To invest strategically in the land estate of the United States in order to
restore and preserve the economic value [and beauty] of our natural
infrastructure, a critically important platform for our Nationís
- PROGRAM: To allow $25 billion in transferable Federal tax credits to be used to acquire
conservation easements with every State participating.
- TERM: Five years, unless the program is extended by Congress.
- ANNUAL ALLOCATION: The amount of available tax credits shall increase each year, with $4 billion
the first year, $4.5 billion the second, $5.0 billion the third,
$5.5 billion the fourth, and $6.0 billion the fifth.
- ALLOCATION AMONG STATES: The tax credits shall be allocated among the States based on a formula under
which a State receives a percentage of the annual credits equal
to the amount of private open space (i.e., the total amount of private
farm, ranch, and forest land) that it has relative to the total
amount of such land in the United States. Notwithstanding this formula,
no State shall receive an initial annual allocation that exceeds
4% of the total amount of credits. (See Exhibit A for sample allocations.)
- REALLOCATION OF UNUSED DOLLARS: If any State shall fail to use its allocated annual share of tax credits in any
of the five years, the amount not used shall be forfeited and transferred
to a national pool that shall be reallocated pursuant to regulations
that the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture shall determine.
- ACQUIRING CONSERVATION EASEMENTS: The conservation easements shall be acquired at a price equal to or less than
the fair market value of the easement. The easements shall be negotiated
and acquired by existing 501(c)(3) conservation organizations. Their
tasks will include not only acquiring the easements, but also obtaining
taxpayers who are willing to buy the transferable credits in order
for the transactions to close. The organization must not only comply
with all of the requirements of the program, but also with all other
Federal and State laws and regulations. (Note: These organizations
currently work with governments to acquire most of the properties
conserved for public purposes today. Using them pursuant to this
legislation recognizes that reality as well as precludes the necessity
of creating a federal bureaucracy to accomplish the goal.)
- FEDERAL PARTICIPATION: The Federal Government establishes the program and controls it by establishing
its objectives, its tactics, its funding, and the means by which
it is evaluated.
- The Federal Government also determines what qualifies as a conservation easement
under the program.
- STATE PARTICIPATION: Each State is allocated a specific amount of credits. It must manage their use
and allocate the credits among the various alternatives that are
presented for their use within the State. [The bill will be amended
to provide that in order to qualify for the reallocated national
pool, a State must devise a strategic plan for best protecting its
natural infrastructure. This will promote strategic conservation
based on local knowledge and needs.]
- CITIZEN PARTICIPATION: Each Federal taxpayer can participate by allocating from its Federal tax liabilities
for the program, soliciting other citizens to allocate their Federal
tax liabilities, participating as employees or volunteers with the
conservation organizations, selling or encouraging other to sell
conservation easements under the program, and/or participating in
the various governmental efforts associated with the program.
- MODELS: This program uses existing law concerning conservation easements that has evolved
at the Federal level successfully over the past thirty years. The
structure of the program itself is based on the very successful
tax credit program for low income housing.
Christopher Glenn Sawyer
Alston & Bird LLP
1201 West Peachtree Street
Atlanta, Georgia 30309-3424