An Environmental Property Tax?

What if there was an environmental property tax?

This tax would not be based on property value, but simply on acreage. The amount of the tax would be based on how well a particular property contributes to overall environmental wellness. The definition of environmental wellness would be simple, and defined within the area's geographic location and local environmental concerns. For example, along the east coast rainfall is plentiful and trees grow naturally and trees are great producers of oxygen and other environmental benefits. So the amount of land covered in plants at the ground level and volume of upper canopy greenery (i.e., trees) might constitute the basis upon which the tax is calculated. In arid or semi-arid areas, plants that contribute to the conservation of water might be the basis of calculating tax rates.

Let's say that the tax rate is $100 per acre for a property that makes no positive contribution to the environment. (My numbers here are meant to make calculations simplistic, not necessarily represent good values.) In the Connecticut, that might look like a parking lot. That parking lot is taxed at the highest rate ($100). Next to parking lot is a property with a building and half the land is open space, covered in grass. They get a $10 tax credit. ($100 - $10 = $90 tax bill). Going farther down the way, we find another plot with a house and half the space covered with mature trees. That owner will enjoy a $50 tax credit. For the land owner with 100% coverage of mature (and healthy) trees, the tax credit could max at $125, netting a $25 payment to the owner. So, the more trees you plant, the lower the tax and if you have well managed land that contributes to improving the environment in some significant way, you might even earn some money from it. The tax revenue generated would help to support other environmental causes.

This might spawn another industry: just as there are tax accountants there might be environmental accountants/landscape consultants to help property owners decide how to minimize this tax and perhaps profit by it. I don't imagine a need for an industry of expert tree counters, that is, people who count the trees and other foliage per acre to assess its tax value. Satellite imaging with pattern recognition should be able to manage that function. There may be some professionals who do land-based surveys when a property owner wants to contest a tax bill, however.

I don't have any illusions that in our current political environment that anything like this could be implemented at the federal level. And it doesn't have to be. If just a few states considered something like this and it was a successful revenue producer, other states would join the cause. Even if it is impossible to get the whole country onboard, significant strides can be made.