SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed a new law that encourages landowner conservation and protection of woodlands, wetlands, prairies and other undeveloped land. Senate Bill 17, sponsored by State Senator John Sullivan (D-Quincy) and State Representative Dan Reitz (D-Sparta), provides property tax incentives for landowners who develop and follow conservation management plans for woodlands, prairies, and wetlands.
“Prairies, wetlands and other undeveloped areas are some of our most precious resources,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “I'm happy to sign this law that will encourage landowners to protect these valuable native lands.”
SB 17 was drafted after the state created the Wooded Land Assessment Task Force that studied issues related to the financial impact on landowners experiencing significant increases in assessments and property tax bills.
“This legislation ensures that woodlands and prairies – places still untouched by human development, remain for our children,” said Rep. Reitz. “I am proud to be a part of this bill that will ensure generations to come may enjoy untouched wildlife. This legislation will also protect tax payers who own wooded land.”
The new law establishes two new divisions within the state Property Tax Code involving Conservation Stewardship and a Wooded Acreage Assessment Transition. Provisions of the new law include:
- Eligible land for preferential assessment includes woodlands, prairies, wetlands or other vacant and undeveloped land that is not used for any residential or commercial purposes.
- Landowners will be required to submit a Conservation Stewardship Plan to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources that specifies conservation and management practices that are designed to preserve and/or restore the land.
- Unimproved property for which a stewardship plan is approved by IDNR staff will be valued at 5 percent of market value.
- A minimum of five acres is required for enrollment.
- If the landowner does not comply with the stewardship management plan, they will be required to pay the difference between the actual property taxes paid and what the taxes would be without the reduced valuation.
- The sale or transfer of properties enrolled does not affect the valuation of the land unless the acreage requirement is not met or the land use changes.
- Illinois Department of Natural Resources staff will draft rules on the requirements of management plans which can be written by consultants, biologists, landowners as long as they meet the requirements. IDNR staff will approve the plans and shall re-approve every 10 years.
- Notification of approval will be provided annually to the Illinois Department of Revenue for property assessment purposes.
- Submission of an application for a management plan shall be treated as compliance with the requirements of the plan until IDNR can review the application.
“The new law will encourage owners of woodlands and other open lands to work closely with the Department of Natural Resources to manage their property to provide enhanced wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation opportunities,” said IDNR Acting Director Sam Flood. “These incentives help us retain woods, grasslands and wetlands that help control soil erosion, improve air and water quality, and enhance the quality of life for all of us.”
SB 17 becomes effective immediately.