U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., introduced a bipartisan bill this week to create certainty for Montana farmers and ranchers who donate conservation easements on agricultural land.

 The bill, co-sponsored by Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is designed to permanently extend tax relief for family farmers and ranchers interested in conserving public access to open spaces.

 “Protecting our outdoor heritage is the right thing to do today and for our kids and grandkids,” Baucus said. “Montana family farmers and ranchers who want to help conserve agricultural spaces deserve certainty and some simple tools to help them share their blessings with future generations.”

 Recent studies show outdoor recreation in Montana supports 64,000 direct jobs and generates $5.8 billion in consumer spending. Baucus earned the Five Valleys Land Trust’s highest distinction in 2011 for his leadership on policy initiatives to preserve Montana’s outdoor heritage and public access to open spaces.

 Baucus’ bipartisan Rural Heritage Conservation Extension Act of 2013 makes permanent the enhanced tax incentive for conservation easements that is set to expire at the end of 2013. The provision allows all taxpayers to deduct up to 50 percent of their adjusted gross income (AGI) for qualified donations of conservation easements. Any unused deduction can be carried forward for up to 15 years.

 The bill further benefits farmers and ranchers by allowing them to deduct up to 100 percent of their AGI for donations of conservation easements.