HELENA, Mont., Feb. 25, 2009 – Ducks Unlimited told state lawmakers it strongly opposes a senate bill that would take away property owners’ rights to put a perpetual conservation easement on their land. The bill was tabled in committee.
“We believe Montanans should have the right to decide for themselves and their families what is right for their land and their future,” said Bob Sanders, DU manager of conservation programs for Montana, who testified at the senate committee hearing on the bill.
Ducks Unlimited works in Montana to conserve waterfowl habitat using a number of techniques including restoring wetland and protecting land with conservation easements. Sanders say DU’s foremost land protection tool is the establishment of voluntary, incentive-based perpetual conservation easements.
“We feel strongly that wide open spaces, abundant wildlife populations and the ability for people to enjoy and use these resources is a large part of what makes Montana a great place to live,” he said. “Restricting Montanans’ ability to preserve this legacy through tools like perpetual easements erodes this heritage.”
Currently, Montana families can receive federal income tax deductions for conservation easement donations, and Sanders says this bill could subject people to higher estate tax burdens.
DU says there are no problems this bill would have fixed. “Under a conservation easement, landowners still pay their property taxes and exercise their rights as landowners,” Sanders said. “If we as Montanans truly believe in property rights and freedom to choose, we should keep the option of perpetual conservation easements available to landowners.”
With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization with more than 12 million acres conserved. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands - nature’s most productive ecosystem - and continues to lose more than 80,000 wetland acres each year.
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