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Jobs Bill May Extend the Easement Incentive, Congressional Recesses, LandVote 2009

Advocates Alert: February 10, 2010

With Washington buried under yet another foot of snow, Congress appears to have given up on plans to pass a "jobs bill" before next week's President's Day recess.  That gives us another week to ensure that at least a one-year extension of the easement incentive, and perhaps more, is included.

Draft Jobs Bill Extends Easement Incentive; Estate Tax Reform Uncertain

House and Senate leaders are currently negotiating a "jobs bill" to provide additional economic stimulus.  It has been widely suggested that a package of tax "extenders" will be included, and we just saw a draft of the Senate bill that includes a one-year extension of the enhanced easement incentive!

Can we do more?  Yes!

Proponents of a reformulated estate tax are floating various proposals, in hopes one will be able to be added to the jobs bill.  If it is, we want to make conservation of farms and forests a part of that package.

Given the longtime role of conservation easements in estate planning, an estate tax package could be the most promising vehicle to make the enhanced income tax deduction for conservation easements permanent.  In past alerts we've also discussed our proposals to increase the estate tax exemption for lands protected by a donated easement and/or defer estate taxes on family farmland.

The Alliance has not taken a position on what the estate tax should look like, or even on whether there should be one.  But even leading Republicans are resigned to having an estate tax, and are trying hard to reformulate it before the law returns to an exclusion of just $1 million in 2011.

The details of what we're trying to achieve on estate tax are complex.  But the essence is simple.  If we can convince Senators that conservation of farms and forests is an important issue in the estate tax, we may be able to include conservation-minded reforms.  Simply share our fact sheet with your Senators and Representatives. Tell them this trio of reforms can provide a powerful conservation incentive and provide targeted relief for family farm, ranch and forest owners.

Arrange Site Visits and In District Meetings Over Recess

The estate tax issue is a perfect example of why it pays to develop relationships with your members of Congress and their staff.  To get noticed, it's important that they care about your organization and respect you as a source of information.

How do you develop that kind of relationship?  Congressional recesses like the one next week are perfect opportunities to demonstrate your role and influence in the community. With some advance planning, a visit to one of your conserved properties can be the best way to make a lasting impression.  Even on short notice it may be possible to arrange an in district meeting or simply show up at a public event like a pancake breakfast or town hall meeting.

Call your Senators’ and Representatives' district offices to explore options.  Even if it's too late to arrange something for next week, now is the perfect time to request a site visit over the two-week Spring District Work Period: March 27 through April 11.  Click here for ideas, examples and templates.

LandVote 2009 Shows Continued Public Support for Conservation

This week, the Trust for Public Land and the Land Trust Alliance released LandVote 2009, a report detailing how voters in 13 states approved over $600 million in new conservation funding, including New Jersey's $400 million "Green Acres" bond.  While activity slowed in this off-year election, among the 40 measures on the ballot, two out of every three passed.

These victories demonstrate that voters remain eager to invest in land conservation, even in troubled economic times.  You can read the report and learn about launching an initiative in your community at: www.lta.org/statefunding.

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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