NC’s Successful Conservation Trust Funds
North Carolina has three trust funds that are used by land trusts and other conservation organizations to acquire high priority lands for permanent conservation easements. In 2013, the NC General Assembly combined the functions of the Natural Heritage Trust Fund (NHTF) with the Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF). Along with the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) and the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund (ADFPTF), these trust funds have been essential partners with land trusts in conserving hundreds of thousands of acres.
At their peak (FY 2007-08), the trust funds had $289 million available to fund land conservation and other projects to safeguard water quality, create and improve state and local parks, protect important plant and animal habitat, and preserve working family farms. While not at the same level as before the 2008 recession and when the NHTF and PARTF had dedicated revenue streams, funding for the trust funds has seen a significant increase in the last three legislative session. For the 2017-18 fiscal year, the General Assembly appropriated a 18% decrease in funding for CWMTF and a 13% decrease in PARTF funding for the biennium. Although advocacy efforts helped obtain $2 million in additional funding to support farmland preservation projects bringing the total to $4.6 million, the second largest annual amount ever.
CTNC and local land trusts are active members of Land for Tomorrow, a coalition of conservation and agriculture organizations, business leaders, sportsmen’s groups and local government agencies that works with legislators and the public to increase state conservation funding and expand tax incentives. In 2012, Land for Tomorrow released a report setting ambitious but achievable goals for land conservation in North Carolina. Download “Securing North Carolina’s Future: A Five-Year Plan for Investing in Our Land, Water and Quality of Life.”
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Clean air, safe drinking water, productive farmland, and places to recreate are basic needs. Plus, land conservation directly supports the state’s economy. Read NC Conservation Economic Fast Facts.
NC Conservation Tax Credit
In July, 2013, the NC General Assembly passed, and Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law, tax reform legislation that repeals the NC Conservation Tax Credit as of January 1, 2014. This income tax credit for landowners who donated their land or a conservation easement was a powerful incentive that resulted in more than 250,000 acres of forests, streams, and farms being protected.
North Carolina was the first state to establish a conservation tax credit back in 1983, and now we’re the first state to repeal it. Conservation advocates are continuing to work with the NC General Assembly to restore the conservation tax credit or similar financial incentives. In 2017, Representatives Jordan, McGrady, and Setzer introduced H 950 to reenact the North Carolina Conservation Tax Credit for projects protecting farmland, military buffers, or flood plain areas, and providing public access to public lands and waters. This legislation is still eligible for consideration. Land trusts will continue working with lawmakers to move this bill forward in the 2018 Short Session of the NC General Assembly.