In the Spring 2007 legislative session, Senate Bill 17 was introduced in the Illinois General Assembly. The bill includes language to create the Conservation Stewardship Program. This program was designed to encourage landowners to maintain unimproved land in order to protect limited environmental resources. The bill offered the incentive of reduced valuation for property taxes to landowners who were willing to commit to maintaining and managing unimproved land. The bill received final legislative approval on July 11, 2007 and was signed into law by Governor Blagojevich on October 1, 2007. To view the complete text of the Conservation Stewardship Law go to this link.
Landowners who wish to receive the special valuation for unimproved land provided by this law are required to prepare a Conservation Management Plan according to rules developed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). That Plan will describe how the land will be managed to protect and maintain environmental resources. When a Conservation Management Plan is approved, DNR will notify the Department of Revenue. Revenue will then notify the appropriate county assessor of the properties that have qualified for the special valuation and the necessary adjustment in the valuation will be made. The first year in which a landowner’s tax bill will be affected is 2009, based on valuations determined in 2008.
The basic provisions of the Conservation Stewardship Law are:
- Taxpayers who wish to receive the special valuation offered by the program must first submit a conservation management plan to DNR
- Land accepted into the Conservation Stewardship Program will be valued at 5% of market value for property tax purposes
- If a landowner fails to comply with their approved conservation management plan, the land will be removed from the program and the landowner will be required to pay the difference between the actual taxes paid and what the taxes would have been without the reduced valuation
- Sale or transfer of land enrolled in the Conservation Stewardship Program does not affect the valuation of the land unless the acreage requirement is no longer met or the use of the land changes
- Submission of a conservation management plan to DNR will be treated as compliance with the requirements of that plan until DNR can review the plan
- The Conservation Stewardship Program will be administered according to rules developed by DNR. Go here to see the complete text of the rules.
Land eligible for enrollment includes:
- Five or more contiguous acres of unimproved land - unimproved land means woodlands, prairie, wetlands or other vacant and undeveloped land that is not used for any residential or commercial purpose that materially disturbs the land
- Land in a forestry management plan under Section 10-150 of the Property Tax Code
- Land registered or encumbered by conservation rights under Section 10-166 of the Property Tax Code
Land NOT eligible for enrollment includes:
- Any land in Cook County
- Land assessed as farmland under Sections 10-110 through 10-145 of the Property Tax Code
- Land valued under Section 10-152 (vegetative filter strips) or 10-153 (non clear-cut along navigable waters) of the Property Tax Code
- Land valued as open space under Section 10-155 of the Property Tax Code
- Land certified under Section 10-167 of the Property Tax Code
- Any property dedicated as a nature preserve or nature preserve buffer under the Natural Areas Preservation Act