CRC News & Notes | December 2020
Colorado Conservation Community,
We are excited to report that CRC’s effort to expand the Conservation Easement Tax Credit Program to include ditch companies, consistent with Keep It Colorado’s policy agenda, was a success! We also want to share our new Land Trust Assistance Program (LTAP) and our Transaction Cost Award Program link.
CRC Secures Expansion of Conservation Easement Tax Credit Program!
With the release of the Department of Revenue’s (DOR) 12/9/20 General Information Letter in response to Conservation Resource Center’s (CRC) request for guidance, DOR has interpreted relevant tax regulations to allow ditch companies to receive conservation easement tax credits. Only ditch companies without government shareholders are eligible.
This expansion increases incentives for the protection of waterfront properties that provide critical wildlife habitat, preservation of water quality, and appropriate recreational access. Without protection, such properties often face intense development pressure for their value as potential residential development sites.
The amendment also expands the geographic diversity of the distribution of Colorado’s Conservation Easement Tax Credit Program and helps to further promote partnerships between land trusts and water interests that can ensure the permanent protection of key watershed properties. This advances the Colorado State Water Plan goal of protecting water quality through land conservation measures. It is anticipated that the amendment will increase land conservation in the state, but will not have a fiscal impact as it does not amend or alter the state’s current $45 million program cap.
It is important to note that certified land trusts and eligible government entities remain the “gatekeepers” to ditch companies earning credits as there must be willing holders of the conservation easements and valid conservation purposes for donations earning credits. The amendment does not allow credits or deductions for donation for water itself. Rather, it is directly analogous to the 2014 change to tax credit rules that allowed nonprofits, which had previously been excluded from earning tax credits, to earn credits in the same manner as other landowners.
Our work with ditch companies has already begun. If you have questions about the GIL or projects that you would like to prioritize, please contact us.
Announcing the Land Trust Assistance Program (LTAP)!
Thanks to all who were able to meet with Lucy over the last couple months to share their administrative and programmatic needs! Simultaneous to our land trust outreach, we spoke with Colorado college career services departments and high school internship offices. As expected, we learned that students and recent grads face a dearth of internship and employment opportunities due to pandemic-related challenges. CRC sees an opportunity here.
In support of our nonprofit mission, CRC wants to create a Land Trust Assistance Program (LTAP) that matches students and/or young professionals in search of land conservation experience with land trusts needing short-term project support. Such support would be in the form of a “micro-internship” — paid, short-term, well-defined jobs. For now, these would be remote. Such jobs might include helping staff to catch up on administrative tasks, starting an online fundraiser, support with social media communications, research and write-ups for Board trainings, or even organizing and disseminating Board packets. The projects would be similar to those given to a new-hire or intern, but would be backed by oversight from CRC staff. Project terms would typically be one week to one month and could be one-time or recurring.
The LTAP is designed to meet two important needs. It will provide land trusts with flexibility to hire interns/staff on a limited basis, strictly for the project at hand. At the same time, it offers students and recent graduates an important opportunity to gain land conservation experience working on diverse projects with different organizations. Land trusts will contract directly with CRC for these services to simplify the process. CRC manages the program, works with the designated land trust contact as needed, and supervises student work. A fixed fee is set ($15-25/hour, a subsidized rate to be paid by land trust) to compensate the interns/staff for work over the set amount of time. During the pilot stage, our own Lucy O’Sullivan will take on projects directly to fine-tune the skills and experience most needed, and assess actual demand for the program. Mike Strugar and Debbie Pentz will also be available to support Lucy and other interns as needed. This program is not intended to provide transaction assistance.
To kick off this exciting initiative, we are asking for land trusts with short-term, remote, and well-defined project needs (starting after 1/15/21) to complete the Conservation Project Opportunity Form. We will select 3-4 projects as our “pilot,” upon which we will continue to refine the program. Thank you for your support!
Who Are We?
The Conservation Resource Center is a nonprofit land conservation organization specializing in policy, research, outreach, and education. In addition to our Tax Credit Exchange Program, the conservation attorneys at the Center work to advance land conservation in Colorado and throughout the nation.
Mike Strugar is an attorney specializing in real estate law and land conservation techniques. He has a law degree and a master’s degree in Natural Resource Management, both from the University of Michigan. In 1993 he established the Conservation Resource Center, the nation’s first functioning exchange for transferring Conservation Tax Credits, and has facilitated the transfer of nearly 1,500 credits.
Debra Pentz has served on the Conservation Resource Center’s Board since its inception and works as Associate Director of the organization. Debbie brings over ten years of professional experience in nonprofit leadership and youth development in addition to her wealth of experience in land conservation, grant management, and fundraising.
Lucy O’Sullivan is Conservation Resource Center’s newest Program Coordinator! She joined CRC after working with Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Partnership Program and with the Keystone Science School, and brings experience in program development and implementation, community outreach, and partnership development. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies and Sociology from Whitman College.
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