Interior Department Proposes Joint Federal, Environmentalist Land Grab Via Tax Code, by Gretchen Randall

BACKGROUND: The U.S. Interior Department’s 2003 budget recently submitted to Congress contains a “Conservation Tax Credit” that would cut the capital gains tax by 50 percent if a property owner “voluntarily sell[s] land or water to a government agency or qualified conservation organization for conservation purposes.” The tax credit is described as an example of a “market based approach to conservation.”

TEN SECOND RESPONSE: Obviously someone in the administration is diametrically opposed to President Bush’s views on land stewardship. This proposal is more in line with the Clinton-Gore Administration’s thinking.

THIRTY SECOND RESPONSE: It may be that holdovers from the Clinton administration remain in the Interior Department and have slipped this wrongheaded initiative into the budget. If this proposal were to be adopted, private individuals would have to pay higher prices to compete with the government or environmental conservation organizations when buying property. It pits neighbor against neighbor with the end result being more federal ownership of property.

DISCUSSION: President Bush spoke at the Cattle Industry Convention February 8, 2002 and said about conservation and landowners: “Every day is Earth Day for people who rely upon the land to make a living. The best conservation practices happen because somebody realizes that it’s in their benefit their own economic interests to practice good conservation in order to raise cows, for example. We think that the collective wisdom of those who own their land is a benefit to the nation; that when individuals make proper choices because they own their own property, that all those decisions in a collective way makes better environmental policy, better land use policy than if it was dictated from a central source of people, many of whom have probably never been on the land.”

So President Bush believes that private owners are the best stewards of the land, while his Interior 2003 budget proposes using tax incentives to reduce the private ownership of land.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: The President’s entire speech can be downloaded at:

The Interior Department 2003 budget can be accessed at: The proposed conservation tax credit can be found on page 191.

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