Congressional Event Success Stories
Hosting a site visit, media event, award presentation or similar gathering with your Member of Congress is one of the best ways to build a relationship you can call on time and again. This page features a selection of successful events for legislators hosted by land trusts around the country. Click here for a guide to hosting an event of your own.
Legislative Breakfast for Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA), Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), and Many State/Local Officials
2013 Attendees included Nick Spinelli of Wallenpaupack Watershed Management District, State Senator Lisa Baker, Superintendent Sean McGuinness of NPS Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River & Keith Williams of Pocono Mountain Visitors Bureau.
Each year, Delaware Highlands Conservancy plays a leading role in organizing a breakfast for local, state and federal officials as part of the Pike/Wayne Conservation Partnership. In recent years, staffers for Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) and dozens of state and local officials have joined these open discussions with land trust leaders and community members about the role that conservation plays in the local economy and how to secure funding to protect those invaluable resources.
As the year gets underway, a casual breakfast is a great opportunity to have an open discussion about your conservation priorities with legislators and conservation partners in your community. Over time, the Partnership has refined the breakfast’s concept.
Sue Currier from Delaware Highlands Conservancy (center) with Governor Corbett's Northeast Representative Harry Forbes, Representative Rosemary Brown and a member of her staff.
In 2013 they dropped most formal presentations in favor of a poster session, allowing public officials to circulate among posters from 20 partnership members and have substantive one-on-one conversations. To reinforce their economic development message, they persuaded a local guide to provide a pontoon boat tour, dividing federal, state and local officials onto different boats where partners could engage this captive audience on issues that matter most to them. Unfortunately, severe weather ended up canceling the boat trip, but hey’re already working on tours of a popular farmer’s market in 2014.
Michele Ulmer of Pike County Conservation District noted that “we get great feedback from legislators who look forward to this event as an opportunity to answer questions that come across their desks over the course of the year.” Even if legislators can’t make it, they do ask for information, and it’s a great opportunity to follow-up with specific asks.
- 2012 briefing paper on economic benefits
- 2010 & 2011 federal and state policy agendas
- Pike/Wayne Conservation Partnership website
Attendees of the 2011 Legislative Breakfast
Columbia Land Trust and The Conservation Fund, held a day-long tour of a working forest project that is a candidate for funds from the Forest Legacy Program. If approved, the working conservation easement would protect 5.2 miles of the Klickitat Wild & Scenic River. CLT was joined by staff from Senator Patty Murray’s office, officials from the state department of Natural Resources, the county government and Hancock Timber, which owns the land. The tour was a great opportunity to demonstrate to the Senator and her staff how federal conservation programs can partner with land trusts to achieve locally-supported conservation on a landscape scale. This 9,036 acre working forest easement will nicely complement the 2,330 acres of sensitive habitat nearby that CLT recently purchased with a Section 6 endangered species grant, another LWCF program. Together these federal programs have put Columbia well on the way to its goal of conserving 20,000 acres on the flanks of Mount St. Helens, and their outreach to Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray may yield dividends for land trusts all across America.
FWLT Exec. Director Wendy Jackson (left) & McWane, Inc. President G. Ruffner Page, Jr. (center) thank Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) for his continued support of land conservation.
During the Congressional recess in August 2013, Freshwater Land Trust hosted Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-06) and his staff for a tour of three properties in Jefferson County, Alabama. The tour included Tapawingo Springs Preserve, Cosby Lake Park, and Turkey Creek Nature Preserve. At Tapawingo Springs Preserve, Congressman Bachus donned his galoshes and was led deep into the wetland by Freshwater Land Trust staff. There, Congressman Bachus was presented with a Conservation Champion award in recognition of his continued support for the Conservation Easement Incentive Act (H.R. 2807). The award was presented jointly by Wendy Jackson, executive director of Freshwater Land Trust, and G. Ruffner Page Jr., president of McWane, Inc., a Birmingham-based manufacturer of waterworks products and supporter of land conservation in Alabama. At Cosby Lake Park, Congressman Bachus was greeted by Mayor Charles Webster of Clay, Alabama, firefighters from the Center Point Fire District including Chief Donnie West Jr., and other community leaders. At the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, Congressman Bachus met with Roald Hazelhoff, director of the Southern Environmental Center at Birmingham-Southern College, and Lane Estes, vice president for Administration at Birmingham-Southern College, who described the positive impact of Turkey Creek Nature Preserve. Mayor Hoyt Sanders of Pinson, Alabama also greeted the Congressman and led a tour of the property.
At each of the three properties, Congressman Bachus and his staff had the opportunity to meet with members of the Freshwater Land Trust Board, local public officials, landowners, business leaders, and community members who support land conservation in his district and across Alabama. Clearly impressed by the diverse constituency and strong show of community support for conservation in his district, Congressman Bachus remarked, “It has always been a pleasure for me to work with the Freshwater Land Trust, which under the leadership of [Executive Director] Wendy Jackson has shown a unique ability to bring many different parties together to voluntarily promote environmental protection and education." While touring the properties, Congressman Bachus reiterated his support and pledged to encourage other members of the Alabama Congressional delegation to join him in cosponsoring the bill.
When asked about the event, Freshwater Land Trust Executive Direct Wendy Jackson said, "Congressman Bachus has been a longtime champion for conservation and we were eager to provide an on-ground tour of several projects in the Pinson and Clay area. We are proud of our successful partnerships and excited that Congressman Bachus shares our passion for continuing preservation efforts. His continued support will benefit Alabamians for generations to come and we are grateful for his support and co-sponsorship of the legislation that would greatly benefit private landowners (H.R. 2807, the Conservation Easement Incentive Act of 2013)."
The Congressman's press secretary published a about the day.
Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) held an event urging passage of the Farm Bill at Engle Ridge Farms in Grand Traverse County. The Farm is protected by easements held by the local township and the state government with funds from the Farm and Ranch land Protection Program. In her remarks, the Senator discussed substantial reforms made to the bill: “The 2013 Farm Bill will reform agriculture programs to save taxpayers billions of dollars while helping Michigan farmers and small businesses create jobs. I'm proud that the Agriculture Committee was once again able to work across the aisle to pass a bipartisan Farm Bill, and it's time for Congress to do the same." She was joined by staff of Leelanau Conservancy, Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, American Farm Bureau Federation and local owners of protected farmland.
Aspetuck Land Trust hosted Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) at its Trout Brook Valley preserve as part of the Congressman’s 17 Towns in 17 Days Tour. With Executive Director David Brant, Rep. Himes strolled amongst apple trees in the 1,009 acres and picked blueberries while learning about the land’s importance as a natural resource for the region. The Congressman was amazed at the scope and breadth of Trout Brook Valley, one of the largest preserves in Connecticut. David and the Congressman stayed well under the two-quart picking limit! A local news station ran a brief piece on the Congressman's visit providing him a great news opportunity while also lending his credibility to the land trust's work. See the clip and other pictures on Aspetuck Land Trust's blog.
Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO)
The Montezuma Land Conservancy invited House Agriculture Committee member Scott Tipton (R-CO) to visit the ranch of Brent and Jean Alexander alongside Chicken Creek in Colorado's Mancos Valley. The Alexanders told the Congressman about how a conservation easement, funded in part by the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, helped them keep the ranch intact and in production. The ranch is stunning, especially in the early spring with dozens of newborn Black Angus calves dotting its lush green fields set against a backdrop of the La Plata Mountains. The visit clearly left an impression, as Congressman Tipton subsequently joined with colleagues to champion $1.58 billion for ag easements in the 2012 Farm Bill.
New York's Columbia Land Conservancy recently met with House Agriculture Committee member Chris Gibson and his district director to discuss several on-going projects in his home county. The highlight was a visit to the Triple Creek Farm, where a pending farmland easement, in partnership with Scenic Hudson, would help farmer Rick Skoda reduce debt and invest in infrastructure for the future. This, and another recent visit with the board of the Agricultural Stewardship Association, helped to demonstrate the strong connection between conservation and economic development, both through farming and tourism. Congressman Gibson went on to become one of the leading advocates for the new Agricultural Land Easements program in the 2012 Farm Bill.
- Watch Rep. Gibson thank Columbia Land Conservancy and other New York land trusts during debate on the House floor on the 2014 Farm Bill.
Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy invited Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) to tour a protected farm in Acme Township and celebrated her leadership in securing a FRPP grant to protect three additional farms. The Senator seemed very moved by farmer Ken Engle’s story of how his family came to permanently protect their farm through a bargain-sale arrangement that utilized the enhanced tax incentives. In fact, she would like for Ken, who recently joined the Conservancy’s board, to come and testify at a hearing of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which she now chairs.
Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA)
Pennsylvania’s Montgomery County Lands Trust, Natural Lands Trust and Brandywine Conservancy recently hosted a press event at a conserved farm, honoring Congressman Jim Gerlach (R-PA) for introducing the Conservation Easement Incentive Act (H.R. 1964). They made a lasting impression by securing front page coverage that featured Congressman Gerlach picking blueberries, being praised by conservationists, getting a blueberry pie and hearing the brew master of Victory Beer speak about how important conservation is to the clean water his business depends on. Click here for photos, video and coverage of the event.
Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO)
In April, Senator Michael Bennet came to Palisade, Colorado, to celebrate the closing of five Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) easements on peach orchards—-an event organized by Mesa Land Trust. The flowering peach trees made a great background for the event, caught by TV cameras and newspaper photographers, along with happy farmers, neighbors, municipal officials and land trust supporters. Senator Bennet, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee’s Conservation Subcommittee, went on to champion several land trust amendments to the 2012 Farm Bill. Read more about this event in Saving Land magazine.
Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-NY)
Scenic Hudson hosted a very positive and well received tour of Hudson waterfront sites with freshman Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-NY). They were joined by the Andy Chmar of Hudson Highlands Land Trust, representatives from local government, and construction workers at one of their park development sites, driving home the message that conservation helps to create good local jobs. They went out of their way to thank the Congresswoman for her work on Conservation Easement Incentive Act and Highlands Conservation Act, thanks that were repeated in local press coverage of the event. Rep. Hayworth returned to Long Dock Park in early July for the official ribbon cutting and park opening.
Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA)
Centre County Farmland Trust, a small volunteer-led land trust, invited Congressman Glenn Thompson (R-PA) to their Farmland Preservation Celebration in March 2011. They presented him with a painting of a historic barn, and he was both pleased and impressed. As it turns out, Congressman Thompson will play a lead role in shaping the next Farm Bill, so this land trust may help bring a billion dollars to land conservation. .
Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX)
El Paso’s Frontera Land Alliance and Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition have organized a series of events to cultivate a relationship with Congressman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) who sits on the Armed Services Committee. The two groups’ long-term goal is to convince the Army to add its 11-square-mile closed artillery property (Castner Range) to the Franklin Mountains State Park, the nation’s largest park within city limits. At its 2010 annual donor-appreciation dinner, Frontera presented the Congressman with an award honoring his successful efforts to secure funding for a study of ways to achieve a conservation conveyance and apply it to Castner. Later that summer they made the project personal by inviting the Congressman, his wife and three of their grandchildren to participate in a clean-up near the park’s entrance.
- See a Saving Land article featuring this and other land trust efforts to cultivate relationships with elected officials.
Piedmont Environmental Council and the Virginia Outdoors Foundation held an event for Rep. Cantor at a family-owned Christmas tree farm in his district and presented him an award thanking him for cosponsoring easement incentive legislation last year. He agreed to become the lead Republican this year’s legislation on-the-spot. Pictured, from left to right: Tony Vanderwarker, Chair of the Board of PEC, Robert Lee, Executive Director of the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, Tom and Donna O’Halloran, Russell Shay, Director of Policy for the Land Trust Alliance, and Rep. Eric Cantor.
Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA)
To celebrate Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick's leadership as an original co-sponsor of the Conservation Easement Incentive Act, Heritage Conservancy, Bedminster Regional Land Conservancy, and Tinicum Conservancy hosted a press conference for the Congressman at Aldie Mansion. Rep. Fitzpatrick's office handled much of the legwork, and while simple to put together, the event secured several good stories in local papers. More.
Rep. Jim Saxton (R-NJ)
New Jersey Conservation Foundation hosted a luncheon to honor a lifetime of conservation leadership by retiring Congressman Jim Saxton (R-NJ). “Today is a topper,” said Saxton after accepting a framed print from New Jersey's conservation community. “It’s been one of the highlights of my life, to be here with you.” Click here for a press release.
Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX)
Ways & Means Committee member Sam Johnson and his staff had nice visit to the office of Connemara Conservancy, where they met with land trust staff to discuss land protection work in North Texas. He announced that he would co-sponsor the easement incentive and offered to contact other North Texas representatives. It was just an easy to arrange office visit, but his staff sent out a press release that got favorable coverage for both the Congressman and the land trust. More.
Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC)
In early 2008 land trust for Central North Carolina persuaded Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC) to spend an entire afternoon visiting several of their projects in his district. They also persuaded Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) to attend their biggest fundraising event of the year.
Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ)
In August, the Passaic River Coalition honored Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) with a press conference at the Great Falls of the Passaic River. There may not be an easement in his largely urban district, but the river (and the water that Congressmen Pascrell’s constituents drink) comes from the New Jersey Highlands, where its watershed faces incredible development pressure. “Congressman Pascrell has always been a strong advocate for our rivers. It’s good to know that when we call in the future, he’ll remember this event and the broader issues we discussed,” said Ella Filippone, Executive Administrator of the Passaic River Coalition.
Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
Three of New Mexico's six land trusts prepared an award presentation for Finance Committee Member and Energy & Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM). While the Senator was called back to Washington on short notice, his staff accepted the award on his behalf and promised to arrange a future visit with the Senator on conserved land.
Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-PA)
The Brandywine Conservancy honored Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) for co-chairing the land conservation caucus and helping to renew the tax incentive for conservation easements. Executive Director Sherri Evans-Stanton and Wendell Fenton, president of the conservancy's Board of Trustees, presented Pitts with a plaque during a brief ceremony on the 164-acre property of Cuyler and Katie Walker which was put under easement thanks to the incentive. Click here for a news story.
Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)
In early 2009, Alison Mitchell and Amy Hansen of New Jersey Conservation Foundation thanked Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) for his help in securing an extension of a the easement incentive with an award presentation in his office. Click here for their press release.
Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI)
In Wisconsin, the Mississippi Valley Conservancy and Gathering Waters Conservancy invited Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI) to tour the 425-acre farm of James and Janice Brady, protected by a conservation easement the Bradys donated in 2006. “I care deeply about continuing to farm my land and preserving the natural beauty of the land,” Mr. Brady told the Congressman, “but I simply could not have afforded to donate without the tax benefits provided by this measure.”
Senator Tom Carper (D-DE)
Wilmington Public Radio reported on an event hosted by the Brandywine Conservancy on the property of the Riegel family in Wilmington. Senator Carper proudly accepted an award thanking him for his support for the easement incentive. Carper says, he is excited to receive this award, but it is really for his staff and colleagues in congress and colleagues in Delaware. Carper adds, each year, farmers and other private landowners use this important conservation tool to permanently protect more than a million acres across the nation.
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
Alison Mitchell and Amy Hansen of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation opted to thank Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) for cosponsoring S. 469 with a simple award presentation in his Newark office. This event was relatively easy to arrange and they anticipate the Senator will remember this gesture when they ask for his help next year. Click here for their press Release.
Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH)
Jo Ann Barefoot board chair of The Nature Conservancy in Ohio who knows Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH) well presented him an award thanking him for cosponsoring the easement incentive. He was clearly appreciative and the occasion allowed them to ask him to support congressional radification of the Great Lakes-St Lawrence River Basin Compact and State Issue 2, the continuation of the Clean Ohio bond fund which funds, among other things, preservation of river corridors and passive parks.
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA)
Cascade Land Conservancy President Gene Duvernoy presented an award to Ways & Means Committee member Jim McDermott (D-WA) in his Seattle office. While the award thanked him for cosponsoring the easement incentive, this meeting proved an excellent opportunity to discuss forest conservation bonds, another issue before the committee.
Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY)
Western New York Land Conservancy invited Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY) to an event celebrating the closing of a farmland protection project in his district. The Congressman was unable to attend but a member of his staff attended to accept an award on his behalf.
Rep. John Dingell (D-MI)
While Rep. Dingell himself was unable to attend, a member of his staff, Andy LeBarre (left), attended a cellebration of Legacy Land Conservancy's 38th anniversrary, and accepted the award on his behalf. Land Trust Alliance president Rand Wentworth (center) and Legacy Land Conservancy's board president, Guy O. Williams (right), presented the award on behalf of Heart of the Lakes Conservancy.
Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ)
Rep. Holt spent a morning participating in a D&R Greenway Land Trust volunteer event during the Congressional recess in August 2012. This picture shows him taking a break with a fellow volunteer while removing the invasive autumn olive at Cedar Ridge Flagship Preserve. Yes, he even brought his own chainsaw! Rep. Holt cosponsored H.R. 1964 in the 112th Congress and is a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources.
Senator Mark Udall (D-CO)
Sen. Udall visited the Rio Grande River in July 2011 to admire recent restoration and conservation projects along the river in southwestern Colorado. The 'Rio Grande Initiative' is a partnership between the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project. This Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP) project includes active grazing on the property to improve the health of the land and water quality. The Rio Grande was recently chosen by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper to be one of America's Great Outdoors pilot projects. Sen. Udall co-ponsored of S. 339 in the 112th Congress.
Representative Mike Thompson (D-CA)
Rep. Mike Thompson showed off the result of his 'advanced' shooting skills at the Aim for Agriculture and Open Space Sporting Clay Shoot hosted by the Solano Land Trust in August 2011. SLT Executive Director Nicole Byrd was the winner of the dubious "Duck and Cover" Award. Congressman Thompson is a member of the House Ways & Means Committee, and has introduced the enhanced easement incentive legislation in the past three Congresses.