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Tax Incentives on Front Burner, Voters Approve $2 Billion for Conservation, AGO Deadline

Advocates Alert: November 15, 2010

Today the 111th Congress returns to Washington for its final weeks.  We'll need you to be on your toes, as there are genuine opportunities for action on some of our top legislative priorities.

New Hope on Taxes -- Push for a Permanent Easement Incentive!

If you called Congress in response to last month's alert, you probably heard skepticism about prospects for any action on taxes, but the election has inspired a renewed interest in compromise.  President Obama and Congressional leaders from both parties have declared a tax bill to be a top priority for the "lame duck" session and the leaders of the Ways & Means and Finance committees recently sent the Commissioner of the IRS a letter pledging to pass tax legislation and urging the Commissioner to count on them fixing the Alternative Minimum Tax when preparing 2010 tax forms.

A two-year extension of expired tax provisions looks increasingly likely, but we believe the best strategy is to remain focused on seeking a permanent extension of the enhanced easement incentive. If you haven't yet spoken with the tax staffers for your Senators and Rep, this is the critical week for getting the incentive on their agenda. Our "How You Can Help" page has talking points and fact sheets that you can forward.  We also encourage you to share our new Conservation Tax Incentive Coalition letter, signed by 68 conservation, agriculture and sporting organizations.

A solution on estate tax will be trickier, but it could still happen and we've heard promising news that senior Finance Committee members are giving serious consideration to our estate tax conservation incentives: H.R. 3050/S. 3640 and H.R. 5475/S. 3664.  For more details and fact sheets you can forward about these important provisions, please visit our Estate Tax page.

Finally, we've created a new fact sheet discussing the S corporation donation incentive, which allows S corporation shareholders to deduct the full fair market value of their donations, not just their basis in stock.  This provision, which expired along with the easement incentive, has been essential to a number of important conservation deals and we’re hopeful it will be renewed this year.

Voters Approve Over $2 Billion for Conservation

On Election Day, voters sent a strong message that conservation remains a top priority, even in a bad economy.  Statewide conservation ballot measures in Oregon, Iowa, Rhode Island and Maine won by large margins, and land trusts were integral to these victories. Only the largest statewide measure, a vehicle license fee in California to fund state parks, went down to defeat.

Land Trust Alliance board member Mark Ackelson, of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, was part of the coalition that spearheaded Iowa's Water and Land Legacy amendment. He shared that, "our coalition had over 130 organizations representing 300,000 members. We are a coalition of jeans and suits, tennis shoes and waders, and camouflage and blaze orange. This victory will change the face of Iowa."

Read a longer article on these ballot measures.

Get Ready for the America's Great Outdoors Report

You may recall today is the day by which the presidential memorandum on America's Great Outdoors requested recommendations from federal agencies.  When their report is submitted to the White House (and it could well be delayed), it will still be embargoed until the President has an opportunity to review the recommendations and make a public release.

That could come in just a few weeks, or several months, but we’ll be prepared with templates to help you spread the word.  We don't yet know their specific policy recommendations, but we do know that working lands and land trusts will be important themes -- marking a significant shift in federal conservation policy.  Our emphasis will be to help you share with the local media and your members that the federal government sees your work as essential to meeting conservation goals in the 21st century. We'll keep you posted.

Thanks for helping!


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Advocates Alerts

July 17: The House just voted 277-130 to pass the charities package! 56 Democrats joined their Republican colleagues to support charitable giving incentives, including the enhanced easement incentive - the second-highest number of defections after the research and development tax credit. Several others spoke on the floor in support of the conservation easement incentive, and other favorable charitable incentives. Thank you to organizations like Ducks Unlimited, CSF and others that reached out to Congressional offices over the last few days or alerted their membership of this important vote. Now, we pivot to the Senate.
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