State-level incentives for promoting private land conservation in North Carolina
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Private land conservation confers a number of public benefits, including ecosystem services, access to recreation, and protection of natural and cultural heritage elements. North Carolina’s population is expected to grow by more than 30% by 2030, creating new urgency for conservation priorities such as watershed and open space protection around the state’s growing population centers. State budget cuts resulted in historically low levels of public grant funding for nonprofit land conservation in FY 2011-2012. However, depressed land markets represent a significant window of opportunity for land trusts to acquire and protect ecologically significant properties from development. Federal, state, and local governments employ a variety of incentive programs to encourage private citizens to donate real property to nonprofit land trusts. Following Eugene Bardach’s method for qualitative policy analysis, I use four criteria - (1) strengthening partnerships between DENR and nonprofit conservation organizations, (2) minimizing costs to state agencies, (3) supporting the state’s long-term economic development goals, and (4) protecting DENR’s authority to oversee future conservation initiatives - to evaluate seven options for increasing private conservation in FY 2012-2103 in North Carolina: (a) property tax rebates, (b) reducing present use valuation tax penalties, (c) transferable state income tax credits, (d) increasing the corporate income tax deduction, (e) increased appropriations for state trust funds, (f) municipal revenue streams for conservation projects, and (g) a voluntary conservation offset program for housing developers. In order to promote private land conservation in FY 2012-2013, I recommend that the North Carolina General Assembly remove the tax penalty for lands switched from present use valuation categories to dedicated conservation programs, encourage municipalities to develop alternative revenue schemes for funding conservation, and create a statewide voluntary conservation offset program for developers.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
state tax incentives
nonprofit land trusts
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