FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Gov. Ernie Fletcher wants private
landowners to get an income tax break for conserving their property
and opening it to hunters and anglers.
Currently, about 94 percent of Kentucky's land - much of which
outdoors enthusiasts might consider prime real estate - is
Fletcher endorsed a plan Wednesday aimed at freeing up some of that coveted private land for public use through tax breaks.
"This is a very high-impact, low-cost way to achieve a dramatic
increase in land conservation and wildlife recreation access,"
Fletcher said at a news conference touting the plan.
Approved landowners, under the plan, would agree to protect
their land from development and allow members of the public to use
the land for certain outdoor activities - such as hunting and
fishing, Fletcher said. In exchange, landowners would retain
ownership and management of their land and qualify for a maximum
$250,000 annual credit, and a $2.5 million lifetime break, on their
personal or corporate income taxes, Fletcher said.
The incentives would help give hunters and anglers additional
sporting options and boost the state's tourism industry, Fletcher
Because of the limited amount of public land, many hunters are
priced out of hunting or fishing in certain places.
Freeing up more land could help some of the low and middle income participants, Fletcher said. Beyond hunting and fishing, the plan would also give more opportunities to bird watchers, hikers and bicyclists,
"The nice thing about this is it takes away the advantage that
wealthy sportsmen have and it opens this up to everyone, regardless
of their demographic disposition," Fletcher said.
To qualify, a landholder would have to apply to the state, which
would then conduct a blind review of the property, said Jon
Gassett, head of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife
If the proposal became law, applicants could begin applying in
2008, state Budget Director Brad Cowgill said.
The credits would be limited to a total of $3 million in the first year and then gradually increase to $10 million by 2012, Cowgill said.
State Rep. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, and Sen. Gary Tapp,
R-Shelbyville, said they intend to push proposed legislation when
the General Assembly returns to business next week.
Webb said such legislation was "a long time coming" and a
priority for sportsmen both nationally and in Kentucky.
"It's easily justifiable because of the benefits that it's
going to bring in recruiting and retaining hunters and fisherman
license holders for future generations," Webb said.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)