Crapo legislation would give tax credit to landowners

By CAROL RYAN DUMAS

Capital Press

Recovery efforts for threatened and endangered species could get a boost from private landowners' voluntary contributions under legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho.

Crapo, ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife, has garnered bipartisan support for his Endangered Species Recovery Act of 2010.

The updated ESA-related bill follows Crapo's original 2007 legislation that won broad, bipartisan support and the endorsement of landowner and conservation groups alike. Language from that bill calling for tax deductions for private property owners who assist in species recovery was included in the 2008 Farm Bill.

Crapo's new effort seeks to create tax credits for landowners as well.

"The original legislation had a credit and deduction," said Lindsay Nothern, Crapo's spokesman in Boise. "The credit was stripped out in conference committee, but the deductions stayed in. We are now introducing the credit as a stand-alone bill to finish what we started."

"More than 80 percent of threatened and endangered species reside on private lands, including agricultural land," Crapo said. "Creating new incentives for land owners benefits these species' recovery efforts."

The proposed tax incentives would be a benefit to ranchers, the environment and species recovery, said Wyatt Prescott, the Idaho Cattle Association's new executive vice president.

"These landowners are with the land working with these species everyday. They know what needs to be done," he said.

And cattlemen are a lot happier to see actions such as Crapo's proposal than the inside of a courtroom, he said.

"We're always impressed with Crapo, how he's willing to approach issues with common sense with something that will work. This is another example of that," he said.

Crapo's bill, S3146, would create habitat protection easement credits and habitat restoration credits, fairly compensating landowners who provide conservation easements and assist with species recovery.

Activities could include plans that assist in creation of habitat and work with agencies on species recovery, Nothern said.

"These people are in the best position to help the vast percentages of threatened and endangered species that live on private lands," Crapo said.

"The Endangered Species Act has played a critical role in protecting threatened and endangered species, their habitats, and promoting species recovery," he said. "Now it is time for private property owners to be full partners in these recovery efforts."

The bill has nine co-sponsors, including Sens. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, and Jon Tester, D-Mont. The legislation has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee, on which Crapo serves.

Proposed provisions

Habitat Protection Easement Credit

* Perpetual habitat protection agreement: Calls for 100 percent of the difference in the fair market value of the land on the day before the agreement is signed and on the day after it is signed.

* Qualified 30-year habitat protection agreement: Calls for 75 percent of the difference in value of the land before and after the agreement is signed.

Habitat Restoration Credit

* Qualified perpetual habitat protection agreement: 100 percent of the costs.

* Qualified 30-year habitat protection agreement: 75 percent of the costs.

* Qualified habitat protection agreement: 50 percent of the costs.

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