California's population increases have long been a topic of discussion. Of paramount concern is the question of how the population growth will affect California's rich farmlands, rangelands, open space, wildlife, plant resources, and available parklands. The business of protecting and conserving California's natural resources is a complex endeavor; however, a common theme emerges when individuals, planners and elected officials convene to discuss land use policies and growth. Specifically, innovation and partnerships are critical.
Capitalizing on the opportunities and benefits that arise from integrating divergent interests and forming public/private partnerships, unique and innovative approaches to the protection and conservation of California's farm and ranch lands, natural resources and local economies have emerged. One such innovative solution is the Natural Heritage Preservation Tax Credit Act of 2000 (Public Resources Code Section 37000 et seq).
The purpose of the Natural Heritage Preservation Tax Credit Program (Tax Credit Program) is to protect wildlife habitat, parks and open space, archaeological resources, agricultural land and water by providing state tax credits for donations of qualified land (fee title or conservation easement) and water rights. The Tax Credit Program objectives include the fostering of public/private partnerships to resolve land use and water disputes; assisting habitat stewardship; and demonstrating the state's commitment to protect natural resources by rewarding landowners who perceive habitat as an asset rather than a liability. Initially implemented in 2001, the Tax Credit Program is a successful effort that to date has resulted in the approval of $54.5 million in tax credits, and the donation and transfer of ownership of more than 9,407 acres of critical parkland, open space, agricultural conservation easements, wildlife corridors and archaeological resources.