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Defend Conservation Funding, Good News on Transmission, Census Reminder

Advocates Alert: March 9, 2011

Even as we continue seeking co-sponsors for easement incentive bills in the new Congress, there's important policy news on other fronts.

Urge Your Senators to Restore Conservation Funding

Our February 18 alert outlined dire budget cuts for conservation in the House Continuing Resolution for the rest of Fiscal Year 2011. These include 90% cuts to the Land and Water Conservation Fund and Forest Legacy, elimination of State Wildlife Grants and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, and half a billion dollars of cuts to farm bill conservation programs. Miraculously, the House didn't cut the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program or Grassland Reserve Program, but nothing is sacred as the Senate works to restore funding elsewhere.

This week that debate moves to the Senate and we need your help. Don't worry about specifics of the House bill or today's symbolic Senate votes--everything is on the table, so talk about the programs that are important to you. All politics is local: call your senators at 202-224-3121, ask to speak with the staff member who handles conservation issues, and tell them how your organization has used (or would like to use) these programs to improve the quality of life in your state.

You can also join in several coalition efforts currently underway:

PATH Transmission Line Halted, Other Good News

This year the Alliance will continue working with an engaged team of land trusts to ensure that new proposals for electric transmission lines, where necessary, avoid and mitigate for impacts to conserved land.

This effort scored a symbolic victory last week as a regional grid manager (PJM) halted development of "PATH," a 275-mile long transmission line running from a coal plant in West Virginia, across West Virginia and Virginia, to Maryland. Piedmont Environmental Council and its partners have been fighting the PATH line for years, before state regulators, at public meetings, and by promoting energy efficiency efforts in their area. PEC has urged regulators to reconsider the impact of energy efficiency and demand response, and last week those arguments won the day as PJM agreed PATH is not needed for at least several more years.

This decision follows on the heels of two federal court decisions that sharply curtail the Department of Energy's authority to use National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors (NIETCs), to fast track transmission siting and give utilities unprecedented eminent domain authority. In PEC v. FERC, the Fourth Circuit ruled that a state regulator's "denial" is not the same as "withholding approval," thus utilities don't get a second chance with the feds if a state rejects a line on its merits. More recently in TWS v. DOE, the Ninth Circuit ruled that DOE failed to adequately consult with affected states and to prepare an environmental impact statement as required by NEPA, when developing their congestion study which formed the basis for designating transmission corridors across vast swaths of ten states.

Regarding the Ninth Circuit, Piedmont Environmental Council President, Chris Miller, adds: “This is a game-changing decision.  It established what we have been saying all along: we cannot be willing to sacrifice long established environmental laws in our haste to build new transmission lines.  Those environmental laws were carefully developed, well thought out expressions of our desire to protect precious resources.  A “hurry up and build” approach to energy transmission should not supersede existing law.”

Please visit our transmission webpage to learn more and join our new community of practice and e-mail discussion list on energy issues.

Answer the National Land Trust Census--Deadline March 31

Among its many uses, the National Land Trust Census is a vital tool for telling elected officials about the exciting work of your land trust. It is the only comprehensive profile of the land trust movement and its land protection activities, and gets considerable media attention.

The deadline is March 31! We urgently need your help responding to this survey and spreading the word to other land trusts in your area. To respond, simply visit: www.lta.org/census.

We realize this is a very detailed survey, but it only comes once every five years and is absolutely critical to our policy work. We've designed the online survey so you don't have to finish it all in one sitting. Just log out and log back in to pick up where you left off--all of your previously entered responses are saved. If your land trust responded to the Census in past years, the Web form will have some of the answers pre-filled for your convenience.

For more information and the FAQ, visit www.lta.org/census.  Questions? Email census@lta.org.

Thanks for helping!

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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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