New Federal Budget Increases Public and Private Funds for Conservation

December 21, 2015

On December 18, President Obama signed an Omnibus Appropriations bill that funds the Federal government into 2016. The new Federal budget includes three provisions that increase funding for public and private conservation efforts.

  • Funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is increased from $300 million to $450 million annually. The LWCF, which expired in September, is also reauthorized for three more years. The LWCF has helped pay for important land conservation projects throughout the country, including at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

  • The bill also permanently extends important incentives for making donations to conservation organizations. Taxpayers who donate conservation easements to land trusts like Openlands may now deduct up to 50% of their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) for 16 years, or until their deductions equal the value of their donations. Easement donors who receive most of their income from farming may deduct all of their AGI in any given year.
  • The bill also permanently allows donors who are more than 70 ½ years old to donate up to $100,000 tax-free from their Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs). The Internal Revenue Service will no longer treat these donations as taxable income. This provision saves donors from having to itemize these donations as deductions on annual tax returns. It also offers another outlet for retirees, who must begin withdrawing from their IRAs at age 70½, to support Openlands’ conservation work in a way that also benefits them financially.
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