U.S. Sen. Murphy Meets With Canton Land Trust Members

By:  Ken Byron
Hartford Courant

CANTON — U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy talked about efforts in Congress to promote open space preservation in a meeting on Tuesday with members of the Canton Land Conservation Trust.

One of those measures is a federal tax deduction for people who donate land conservation easements that keep undeveloped property open. Right now, that deduction program has to be renewed annually and Murphy said that is often not done until late in a given year and the benefits implemented retroactively. Murphy told land trust members that the renewal often is a matter of routine business but that he and other legislators are seeking to have the deduction put in place permanently so potential donors can be sure of the tax benefits.

"This can create a powerful incentive for people to donate conservation easements and having to renew it annually has significantly chilled conservation efforts in the state," Murphy said.

Amy Paterson, executive director of the Connecticut Land Conservation Council, was invited to the meeting and she said afterward conservation easement tax deductions have been used elsewhere in the state.

"It is a tool that is commonly used by landowners to conserve their land," Paterson said.

The land trust owns 2,000 acres in town. About 19 people attended the meeting at the Roaring Brook Nature Center, including trust members, local officials and others.

Land trust Co-President Jay Kaplan said after Murphy's presentation that if the tax deductions for conservation easements become permanent the group would make potential donors aware of it as the group seeks to preserve more open space in town.

Other measures Murphy said he and others in Congress are working on include more federal funding for grants to non-profit land conservation groups and for farmland preservation.