Many of us are concerned — if not alarmed — about the impacts of political changes in Washington, D.C., on federal environmental policies, especially those that affect land trusts and land conservation. These include the Farm Bill, the Land and Water Conservation Fund and tax reform legislation. As the voice of the land trust community in Washington, the Land Trust Alliance must have the capacity to engage nimbly and deeply on these issues. Likewise, in response to feedback from our stakeholders, we need to explore how we might engage more significantly on policy matters at the state level in this era of reduced federal environmental actions and protection.
To meet these challenges head on, the Alliance is restructuring its Policy Department: Effective May 27, we will be centralizing our advocacy and policy work under the strategic direction and management of one person, a new Government Relations Director. In addition, we will be changing how we target the efforts of our team members: Instead of assigning staff to different geographies, they will be organized by subject matter expertise (e.g., federal tax issues, land conservation funding, etc.). With that said, we still expect that all regions of the country will be well represented by our government relations team.
Our Policy team has had some incredible successes over the last few years, most notably the campaign to make permanent the enhanced tax incentive for conservation easement donations. We are deeply grateful for the expertise and dedication of Alliance staff in Washington, whose hard work — in partnership with engaged advocates from land trusts across the country – made that victory possible. I am confident that our new departmental structure and continued emphasis on building a robust network of Advocacy Ambassadors will best position us for continued success in today’s political environment.
The restructuring of the Policy Department will take place as follows: Because the new planned positions do not have obvious parallels to current roles, all existing departmental positions will be eliminated in the coming weeks. We have asked existing policy and advocacy staff to remain in place through May 26, and Advocacy Days will go on as planned. We have posted the job description for the Government Relations Director position and ask that you disseminate it widely to qualified candidates. We will also conduct an external search for the position.
We acknowledge that it may take some time after May 26 to fill that position. Effective May 27 and until the director is hired, our Executive Vice President, Wendy Jackson, will serve as Acting Director of the Department, and we will engage external consultants (many of whom are already in place) to provide subject matter expertise and a voice on Capitol Hill for the Alliance and land trusts.
In closing, Wendy and I acknowledge that this is a significant change at the Alliance and we recognize it may be unsettling to some. However, we believe this restructuring is absolutely critical from a strategic perspective to continue to fulfill our mission. Please know that these changes are not a reflection on the abilities or the contributions of the individuals who are affected; rather this is about the structure of the Department. I also note that there are no current plans to restructure other departments at the Alliance.
Please feel free to reach out to me directly if you have any questions or concerns.
Andrew Bowman is president of the Land Trust Alliance.