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Making Friends in Pennsylvania: Three Congressmen Honored

eNews Feature: July 13, 2011


Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA) Picking Berries at a MCLT Event

Rep. Gerlach picks berries as nearby MCLT easement donor Sandy Koenig looks on. Credit: The Mercury, Pottstown, PA

How, amidst a looming budget crisis, have we managed to recruit 260 co-sponsors for legislation to make the enhanced easement incentive permanent? The answer isn’t here in Washington, D.C.; it’s back home, where you live, and where your land trust works. This spring, events hosted by land trusts in three key Pennsylvania districts have helped to forge lasting relationships with representatives that will be critical to our success in the year ahead.

(Click on each image for a larger view.)

Blueberries + Beer = A Champion in Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA)

Dulcie Flaharty (MCLT) Presents a Blueberry Pie to Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA)

Dulcie Flaharty (MCLT) Presents a Blueberry Pie to Rep. Gerlach. Credit: Brian McNeill, MCLT

Montgomery County Lands Trust, Natural Lands Trust and Brandywine Conservancy recently hosted a press event at a conserved farm in Limerick Township, PA, honoring Congressman Jim Gerlach (R-PA) for introducing the Conservation Easement Incentive Act (H.R. 1964).

They got the press to come, filling local media with pictures and video of Congressman Gerlach picking blueberries, being praised by conservationists, getting a pie made of blueberries from the farm, and hearing from the brewmaster of Victory Beer about how important conservation is to the clean water his business depends on. An important employer in the district, Victory has a beer named “Headwaters Pale Ale” and brewmaster Bill Covaleski even agreed to send personal notes to the PA delegation.

Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA) Picking Berries with Landowner Don Hawthorne

Landowner Don Hawthorne discusses the easement incentive. Credit: Brian McNeill, MCLT

Landowner Don Hawthorne clearly made a lasting impression as he spoke about the importance of the enhanced easement incentive in his decision to donate an easement to Montgomery County Lands Trust. The Congressman also had an opportunity to mingle with other nearby easement donors as he picked fresh blueberries on a gorgeous June morning.

Montgomery County Lands Trust, Natural Lands Trust and Brandywine Conservancy have a strong established working relationship, which helps to get last minute, mutually important projects, developed and completed successfully. Years of building trust minimizes turf issues, so all three organizations share the work load and the successes.

Sherri Evans-Stanton speaks at Rep. Gerlach event

Sherri Evans-Stanton of Brandywine Conservancy speaks as landowner Don Hawthorne and Dulcie Flaharty of MCLT watch. Credit: Brian McNeill, MCLT

The three executive directors, Dulcie Flaharty (MCLT), Sherri Evans-Stanton (Brandywine) and Molly Morrison (NLT) also came to Washington, DC in February to present an award to Congressman Gerlach. Together, these events have helped to secure a close friend on the Ways & Means Committee.

Volunteers Befriend Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA), a Key Subcommittee Chair

Rep. Thompson Receives a Painting from Centre County Farmland Trust

Centre County Farmland Trust President Larry Hutchinson (right) presents Rep. Thompson a painting of historic Round Barn by local artist Karl Leitzel (left). Credit: Karen A. Myford

Earlier this year, the Centre County Farmland Trust, a small volunteer-led land trust, invited Congressman Glenn Thompson (R-PA) to their Farmland Preservation Celebration at the conserved Schempf Farm in Harris Township, PA. They presented him with a painting of a historic round barn and he spoke at length about the importance of conservation easements and the work of land trusts.

They didn’t realize it when the event was scheduled, but Congressman Thompson had just been named Chairman of the Agriculture Subcommittee responsible for allocating about a billion dollars to land conservation programs in the 2012 Farm Bill. This little land trust has done us all a big favor!

Rep. Thompson Discussing Conservation at a Centre County Farmland Trust Event

Rep. Thompson discusses farmland preservation with Ferguson Township manager Mark Kunkle and Agricultural Preservation Board chairman Bill Keough. Credit: Karen A. Myford

The Congressman was pleased with the attention and impressed by the diversity of attendees, which included local officials, landowners, and the other local land trust, ClearWater Conservancy. Even after he bragged about supporting the easement incentive, it took some follow-up to get Rep. Thompson on the official list, but he’s now on board and they’ve laid the groundwork for a lasting relationship.

Communications Advisor Karen Myford said “The ideas and materials provided on the Land Trust Alliance website have become the platform from which we have created exciting opportunities for the Centre County Farmland Trust, including a Farmer Forum attended by 50 people as outlined in your Tips for Hosting a Local Public Education Event and Farmland Preservation Celebration based on your Site Visit Guide. You certainly have simplified our work so that we can focus on what needs done right here at home.”

A Warm Welcome Back to Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA)

In 2006 Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced one of the earliest enhanced easement incentive bills. After two terms away from Congress, Rep. Fitzpatrick returned in 2011 and hit the ground running as an original co-sponsor of the new Conservation Easement Incentive Act (H.R. 1964).

Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick at Aldie Mansion

Rep. Fitzpatrick speaks to the press at Aldie Mansion. Credit: Heritage Conservancy

To celebrate his leadership, Heritage Conservancy, Bedminster Regional Land Conservancy, and Tinicum Conservancy hosted a press conference for the Congressman at Aldie Mansion, Heritage Conservancy’s headquarters. While simple to put together, the event secured several good stories in local papers and was an opportunity for the land trusts and the Congressman to reconnect.

The event developed organically, with Bedminster Regional Land Conservancy suggesting a joint press release (based on a Land Trust Alliance template) and Heritage Conservancy taking the next step in organizing an event. Congressman Fitzpatrick’s press secretary actually handled much of the work, distributing the media alert and handling some of the follow-up calls.

We’re all busy. This low-key example shows that it doesn’t necessarily take a huge time investment to make a lasting impression on your elected officials.

Now is the Time to Schedule August Recess Events

Every land trust -- large and small -- can help the land trust community by building relationships with their representatives in Congress. With attacks on conservation funding and the re-design of the tax code, building our collective influence in Washington is critical. Read more inspiring stories below.

Now is the time to join land trusts across the nation and contact your legislators to schedule a site visit during their August recess. You can show them first-hand what saving land is really all about.

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Advocates Alerts

February 12: The House successfully voted 279-137, demonstrating a supermajority (67%) of support, on H.R. 644, a package of charitable incentives including the conservation tax incentive.Now we need your help in the Senate to secure co-sponsors! Sens. Heller and Stabenow have requested land trusts’ assistance in asking senators to cosponsor S. 330, the Conservation Easement Incentive Act. Learn more »

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