Amendment to the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Third-Party Eligibility to Hold Conservation Easements


Objective:  To expand support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) by including a provision in LWCF reauthorization that would provide discretionary authority to the Secretary of Interior and Secretary of Agriculture to work with eligible third parties on permanent conservation easements.


Third Party Provision:  The proposed language would, at the discretion of either the Secretary of Interior or Secretary of Agriculture, provide authority for DOI and USDA to work with third party entities on conservation easements that promote the purposes of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.  In many instances, private landowners are wary about or opposed to the federal government holding conservation easements in perpetuity.  Often these landowners would prefer to work with third parties, such as a state fish and wildlife agency or a local land trust, on conservation easement acquisition projects.  This language would provide new authority for eligible third parties to hold conservation easements under the LWCF Program as compared to the current structure where only federal agencies are permitted to hold conservation easements under LWCF.  Eligible third parties would include state and local governments and Indian Tribes as well as land trusts meeting the IRS Code requirements of a charitable organization with a conservation purpose. 


Possible Supporters:  Agricultural and Stockgrowers Land Trusts; Private Landowners; State, local governments and Tribes; Regional, State-based or County Land Trusts


Proposed Language:

 Section {200306?} – Conservation Easements

(a) In General --

(1) The Secretary or the Secretary of Agriculture may provide funds to an eligible entity to acquire a conservation easement and to implement the terms and conditions of a conservation easement under this Act to promote the purposes of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965 (16 U.S.C. 460l-4 et seq.); and

(2) the owner of the real property involved authorizes the eligible entity to hold and enforce the terms and conditions of the conservation easement.

(b) Eligible entity defined

            In this section, the term "eligible entity" means:

             (1) an agency of State or local government or an Indian tribe; or

             (2) an organization that -

(A) is organized for, and at all times since the formation of the organization has been operated principally for, one or more of the conservation purposes specified in clause (i), (ii), (iii), or (iv) of section 170(h)(4)(A) of title 26;

                         (B) is an organization described in section 501(c)(3) of that title that is exempt from taxation under section 501(a) of that title;

                         (C) is described in -

                         (i) paragraph (1) or (2) of section 509(a) of that title; or

(ii) in section 509(a)(3) of that title, and is controlled by an organization described in section 509(a)(2) of that title;