Ecosystem Services in Working Lands: US Northeast

4.5.1.3 Multilevel incentive structures and access to capital Compounded incentives from conservation easements also are important tools for encouraging producers and businesses to improve landscapes and ecosystems. These generally consist of tax credits that landowners can claim once they enter into a conservation easement agreement. Reduction in general property tax or income tax. New Hampshire, for example, offers a property tax reduction for conservation easement, while West Virginia offers an income tax deduction for the same. These easement programs sometimes establish agreements for certain lengths of time, as in the Maryland Conservation Easement Program. Through the Conservation Property Tax Credit, this program encourages the donation of conservation easements and gives participating landowners a 15-year property tax credit on unimproved land under easement to the Maryland Environmental Trust. In this case, tax credits are seen as more powerful incentives than simple deductions because they represent a direct offset against tax due rather than a reduction of the income against which tax is assessed. Historic preservation. Historic preservation is a narrower land protection program, focused on the preservation of historical sites, not just areas of interest to conservation. These programs take a number of forms, whether through loans, as in the Maryland Historical Trust Historic Preservation Loan Program, or through tax credits, as in the National Park Service’s 20% Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit. As the latter program indicates, these historical preservation programs operate at the national and state levels, as the Rhode Island Historic Tax Credit does. Such programs might not seem relevant to landowners or producers; however, it is important to note that these funds can be used to help restore old barns and wood frame houses, not only increasing the overall value for landowners but also potentially supporting other income- generating activities such as agro-tourism. Capital investment funds. For producers and businesses, there are also ground-up economic development programs that improve returns to landscapes and ecosystems. A number of capital investment funds, called natural capital investment funds, have been developed for these purposes. The Partner Community Capital fund supports the work of The Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit organization with a mission of advancing conservation that makes economic sense. The goal of Partner Community Capital is to address the lack of access to capital for small businesses and farms in rural communities adjacent to areas rich in natural resources. The need for such programs was identified by the Appalachian Regional Commission and West Virginia’s Small Business Development Center in the early 2000s and Partner Community Capital has been working in the state ever since.

4.5.2 Programs for Supporting Institutions In general, the programs that were directed towards supporting institutions within this category focused on enhancing water quality and quantity, improving public access to and acquiring lands across landscapes, mitigating hazards, and professional development.

4.5.2.1 Land acquisition to sustain water quality and quantity

There are a number of grants to fund programs to improve water quality and quantity through the purchase of critical lands that need to be protected. For example, in conjunction with the EPA, the Open Space Institute manages the Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund, which provides capital grants to NGOs and municipalities to purchase land and easements in order to permanently protect important watershed lands. In Maine, the Maine Community Foundation offers the Maine Land Protection grant to NGOs and municipalities for land acquisition or land conservation easement projects.

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