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Rule Change Reduces Barriers to Restoring Wetlands on Working Farms

From Wisconsin Wetlands Association

Rule Change Reduces Barriers to Restoring Wetlands on Working Farms

Madison, July 1. A small change to Wisconsin’s property tax assessment law (Tax 18) has created a big opportunity for wetland restoration and other agricultural conservation practices. The changes recognize the importance of wetlands in agricultural landscapes and open the door for broader discussions about the benefits of restoring and actively managing wetlands on working farms. For many years, all lands restored to wetlands in agricultural landscapes were reclassified from agricultural land to undeveloped land for property tax assessment purposes – even lands restored through state and federal soil and water conservation programs. Lands restored to non-wetland practices through these programs retained agricultural tax treatment. Because agricultural land is taxed at a reduced rate, new wetland landowners often saw large increases in their property tax bills. An update to Tax 18 takes effect on July 1st and addresses this inconsistency. The new rule establishes clear and fair criteria for when conservation practices installed in agricultural landscapes retain eligibility for the reduced agricultural tax treatment. To be eligible, lands must be enrolled in federal or state easement programs, and be restored in compliance with soil and water resource management standards established for farm conservation practices (ATCP 50). Lands restored under temporary easements are eligible provided that the easement does not restrict the land from returning to agricultural use when the easement expires. Lands restored under permanent easements will retain agricultural tax treatment when the easement or management plan authorizes a compatible agricultural use such as haying or grazing.

Wisconsin Wetlands Association (WWA), a statewide wetlands conservation organization, supported the rule change and describes it as an incredible opportunity to put wetlands to work for Wisconsin’s farms. “Over the course of my career, I’ve helped farmers successfully restore and manage wetlands to improve forage and yields, provide habitat, and protect crops from flooding,” says WWA’s Executive Director, Tracy Hames, “we’re excited to help Wisconsin farmers do the same.” WWA says that haying and grazing won’t be appropriate in all cases, but that these practices can often be used to maintain or improve the health of the wetlands and the benefits to the farms. WWA’s Policy Director, Erin O’Brien, who worked closely with the state, agricultural interest groups, and conservation organizations throughout the rule making process praised the Department of Revenue (DOR) for their efforts. “Leveraging property tax policy to benefit the state’s agricultural industry and conservation is no small feat,” says O’Brien, “but DOR worked hard to understand the

issues and crafted a policy that we think will serve these shared interests well for a long time to come.” The text of the new rule can be found through: http://tinyurl.com/Tax-18-05-new.

 

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