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Budget Includes Big Gains for LWCF, Cuts to Ag Programs

Advocates Alert: February 5, 2010

On Monday, President Barack Obama submitted his Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2011, which begins October 1. The President's budget is only a proposal to the Congress.  It is up to the Congress to implement it -- or do something different -- through changes in law and appropriations legislation.  It does, however, set a tone for the year and provides you a good opportunity to tell the Appropriations Committees which programs you think should get more funding.

Interior Budget Boosts LWCF by One Third, Includes Few Cuts


In what would be the third straight year of significant gains, President Obama has proposed $620 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), staying on track for his promise of full funding by 2014.  That’s an increase of $167 m over last year and is nearly five times its recent low of $138 m!  As has been common in recent years, the administration lumped several programs together under the banner of LWCF; here's the breakdown:

  • Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) would receive $384 m, compared to $278 m last year.
  • State-side LWCF would increase by $10 m to $50 m.
  • Forest Legacy would receive $100 m, up from $79.5 m last year.
  • Cooperative Endangered Species Fund would receive $85 m.


Elsewhere in the Interior budget, the State Wildlife Grants Program remains unchanged at $90 m. The administration also proposes reauthorizing the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA), which allows sales of excess federal property to be used to fund acquisition of inholdings and adjacent properties with high conservation values.

Amid these gains, there were a few cuts. The North American Wetlands Conservation Act was cut by $5 m to $43 m.  The Alliance has helped many land trusts get NAWCA grants to acquire and restore wetland habitat.  Most items on the list of Terminations, Reductions and Savings cite some sort of inefficiency or redundancy, but in the case of NAWCA simple "budget constraints" seem a poor reason to cut a "successful" program.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is reduced by $175 m to $300 m, with the rationale that last year's injection of "stimulus bill" funding to the initiative is still largely unspent.  Historic preservation groups are concerned about the proposed elimination of the Save America's Treasures and Preserve America grant programs.

We need your help reaching members of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittees to applaud the increases for LWCF and oppose the cuts.  Scroll down to find members from your area, then call them via the capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask for their Appropriations staffer. You can follow-up by e-mail with a press release from the LWCF Coalition.


Agriculture Budget Would Cap Important Conservation Programs


In 2008, we celebrated $1 billion in new funding for easement programs in the Farm Bill over the next 5 years.  Unfortunately, the Appropriations Committees can, and sometimes do, prevent these amounts from being automatically appropriated.  Among the programs most important to land trusts, the Obama budget proposes the following cuts:

  • The Grasslands Reserve Program would be reduced by 183,662 acres, a cut of about $22 m this year.
  • The Farm and Ranchland Protection Program would be capped at $160 m -- that’s $10 m more than last year but a $15 m cut from the level provided in the Farm Bill.
  • The Healthy Forests Reserve Program would decrease from $16 m to $10 m.
  • The Wetlands Reserve Program would be reduced by 57,018 acres, cutting expenditures by about $111 m.


You can help by calling members of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees to protest cuts to these and other programs.  This is a fight we can win! The Administration proposed similar caps last year, but Congress restored full funding for all the programs listed above. Scroll down to find members from your area, then call them via the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask for their Appropriations staffer.  You might consider forwarding the House or Senate version of a coalition letter that protests these cuts.


No Easement Incentive, Cap on Itemized Deductions Returns


This year's budget includes a lot of proposed changes in tax law but, unfortunately, making the enhanced tax incentive for conservation easements permanent is not among them.  A one year extension of the incentive was included in the Administration's budget last year.

Extension of the easement incentive may be included in a "jobs bill" the Senate is expected to move in the next few weeks -- keep tuned for updates!

The President's budget also includes, as it did last year, a proposal to limit tax deductions for upper income taxpayers, including deductions for charitable donations, so that deductions are limited to the 28% rate.   Key players in Congress expressed their opposition to this last year, making its adoption unlikely.

We'll keep you posted as Congress begins work on this year's appropriations.

Thanks for helping!


Members of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittees (Urge to Support LWCF Increases)


House:

  • Rep. Norman D. Dicks, Chair (D-WA)
  • Rep. James P. Moran (D-VA)
  • Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (D-WV)
  • Rep. Ben Chandler (D-KY)
  • Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey (D-NY)
  • Rep. John W. Olver (D-MA)
  • Rep. Ed Pastor (D-AZ)
  • Rep. David E. Price (D-NC)
  • Rep. David R. Obey (D-WI)
  • Rep. Michael K. Simpson, Ranking Member (R-ID)
  • Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA)
  • Rep. Steven C. LaTourette (R-OH)
  • Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK)
  • Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA)

 

Senate:

  • Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chair (D-CA)
  • Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WV)
  • Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
  • Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND)
  • Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
  • Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI)
  • Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD)
  • Senator Jack Reed (D-RI)
  • Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE)
  • Senator Jon Tester (D-MT)
  • Senator Lamar Alexander, Ranking Member (R-TN)
  • Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS)
  • Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT)
  • Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH)
  • Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
  • Senator Susan Collins (R-ME)


Members of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees (Urge to Oppose Caps on Farm Bill Conservation Programs)


House:

  • Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Chair (D-CT)
  • Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA)
  • Rep. Allen Boyd (D-FL)
  • Rep. Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D-GA)
  • Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-TN)
  • Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH)
  • Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey (D-NY)
  • Rep. Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. (D-IL)
  • Rep. David R. Obey (D-WI)
  • Rep. Jack Kingston, Ranking Member (R-GA)
  • Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA)
  • Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO)
  • Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA)
  • Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA)


Senate:

  • Senator Herb Kohl, Chair (D-WI)
  • Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA)
  • Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND)
  • Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
  • Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL)
  • Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD)
  • Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE)
  • Senator Jack Reed (D-RI)
  • Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR)
  • Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA)
  • Senator Sam Brownback, Ranking Member (R-KS)
  • Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT)
  • Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS)
  • Senator Christopher Bond (R-MO)
  • Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
  • Senator Susan Collins (R-ME)


Remember, you can reach any office by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.  Ask to speak with the staff member who handles appropriations, tell them about your organization and ask for their help providing needed funding for your conservation work.


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