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Write to Your Members of Congress

Who Do I Write To?

  • Your state's two Senators and the U.S. Representative from your district!
  • For the name, address or email of your Senators or Representative, please go to www.senate.gov or www.house.gov.  Or email policy@lta.org for complete contact information, including staff emails, for your entire delegation
  • Please FAX or EMAIL your letter. Security can delay mail delivery by weeks!
  • Does a "key" congressperson represent your district? See a list of key senators and representatives. These members of Congress have a lot of influence on conservation tax incentives, so contact them today!

When Should I Write?

  • Now! Make initial contact with your Senators and Representatives today.
  • Join the Land Trust Advocates network for email updates, and we'll let you know when is the best time to follow-up with Congressional offices.

Hints to Write an Effective Letter

  • The more you tailor it to your land trust and your community, the better.
  • Personal letters are always more effective than form letters.
  • Follow-up your letter by placing a phone call to the Congressional office! Switchboard: 202-224-3121.
  • Invite members of Congress to visit your land trust and see your conservation work!
  • Include additional information such as our fact sheet and other resources available on the How You Can Help page.

Sample Letter Seeking Cosponsors for the Easement Incentive

Format on your letterhead and, for best results, email a copy to your lawmaker's tax staffer

 

The Honorable [Member Name]
[U.S. House of Representatives / United States Senate]

Washington, DC [House: 20515 or Senate: 20510]


Dear _______________:

I am writing as a member of the [your land trust], which works in [your community] to conserve [your mission – are you protecting farmland, wildlife habitat, parks, open space]. Our work over the past two years has been greatly enhanced by a new tax incentive for conservation easement donations, but Congressional inaction caused it to expire at the end of 2013. We urge you cosponsor a bill to make this important conservation tool permanent.

One of the most important tools we use is the conservation easement. By donating a conservation easement to [your land trust], landowners here in [community] can retire the development rights on their land, protecting these special places and important natural resources for future generations. The tax benefits they receive for these generous donations are critical to our ability to conserve land. [Tell them briefly about at least one specific donation made recently, or in the works, and its value to the local community.]

["Senator Orrin Hatch" (for senators) OR Representatives Jim Gerlach  and Mike Thompson" (for house Reps.)] have introduced legislation to make this important conservation tool permanent. We urge you to co-sponsor [House: "the Conservation Easement Incentive Act, H.R. 2807." OR Senate: "the Rural Heritage Conservation Extension Act, S. 526."] Your support for this legislation will make it easier for ["farmers and ranchers" or "landowners"] to conserve their land, and help conservation organizations like ours protect valuable resources in [your community].

This incentive helps landowners of modest means choose conservation by:

  • Raising the maximum deduction a donor can take for donating a conservation easement from 30% of their adjusted gross income (AGI) in any year to 50%;
  • Allowing qualified farmers and ranchers to deduct up to 100% of their AGI; and
  • Increasing the number of years over which a donor can take deductions from 6 years to 16 years.

Donating development rights to land – often a farm or ranch family's most valuable asset – requires careful planning and consideration. It often takes years from the initial conversations with a landowner before a conservation easement is executed. Landowners considering a perpetual commitment for their land should not be pressured by an artificial deadline, and many will never begin the process without the reassurance of a permanent incentive.

We would like you to learn more about the work we are doing, and are confident that if you do, you will agree with us that the donations we receive are valuable assets for our community’s future. [Invite them to visit!] We hope we can count on your support for making the easement incentive permanent.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]


Send us a copy at policy@lta.org!   We’d love to see it.

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Advocates Alerts

November 6: With only eight weeks remaining before Congress adjourns (of which Congress will be in Washington for only four), there is limited time to act. Ask your senators to urge their party’s leadership to include the charitable package in any year-end tax legislation. We’ve been meeting with Senate offices and have been encouraged by their willingness to consider making some tax extenders permanent. This puts us in a good position, but we need you to reinforce that special places are being lost because the incentive has expired. Learn more »

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