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Brokers and Conservationists Find Common Ground

Environmental organizations don’t always have the friendliest relationships with land developers and real estate brokers, but a recent gathering between Chicago-area real estate practitioners and The Conservation Foundation, a major Illinois land and river protection group, set out to deepen understanding between the two camps. “We’re not anti-development. We’re about balance. We support building communities where people want to live,” said TCF president and CEO Brook McDonald. “Sometimes nature is improved through development.” The foundation is on a mission to advance its connections and collaboration with municipalities and real estate professionals in its northeastern Illinois region. Daniel Wagner, senior vice president of government relations for The Inland Real Estate Group of Companies, and a member of the TCF board of trustees, organized the Oak Brook, Ill. event to inform local practitioners about the conservation group’s initiatives. Here were some of the discussion highlights: •TCF wants brokers and agents to spread the word about its conservation certification programs for home and business owners that recognize environmentally friendly yards and landscaping. Over the past eight years, the Conservation@Home program has certified more than 1000 properties,. They commonly feature a generous use of native plants and other measures promoting water conservation and stewardship of natural areas. The group introduced its Conversation@Work program that recognizes exceptional protection of natural areas for businesses and other commercial spaces in 2014. •River protection is another environmental priority that agents and brokers, and other community members were encouraged to get involved with. Last spring nearly 900 volunteers cleared 12 tons of debris from 72 miles of local rivers and streams. •Public spending for conservation programs is more popular than people generally realize, even among the small-government crowd. In public referendums in TCF’s four-county service area since 1997, “conservative, anti-tax voters have approved $1.3 billion in funds for the preservation and protection of forty thousand acres,” he said. •The financial benefits of conservation easements make them attractive to investors. These voluntary agreements by landowners permanently limit the type and scope of development that is permitted on a property. Land remains in private hands but qualifies for tax breaks. “Restrictions for development can be written into the deed of the land and result in substantial property tax, estate, and income tax deductions,” McDonald noted. Practitioners interested in learning more about groups similar to TCF in their areas should visit the Land Trust Alliance, an association representing more than 1,100 member land trusts like TCF and supported by more than five million members nationwide. DAILY REAL ESTATE NEWS | MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2016 —REALTOR® Magazine

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