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Attend America's Great Outdoors Listening Sessions, Incentive Vote Delayed

Advocates Alert: June 10, 2010

While a renewal of the enhanced easement incentive remains bogged down in the Senate, we have exciting new details about America's Great Outdoors listening sessions across the country.

More Details on America's Great Outdoors Listening Sessions

If anything, it appears our June 4th alert understated the success of Montana's America's Great Outdoors listening sessions!  According to Glenn Marx of the Montana Association of Land Trusts, "America's Great Outdoors dominated statewide news for about a 48-hour period" and "the three main messages from land trusts -- make the federal conservation tax incentives permanent, full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the USDA Farm and Ranchland Protection Program is valuable and could be modified to be even more valuable -- were made repeatedly and consistently."  Click here for Glenn's 20 thoughts about the listening sessions.

Now it's your turn to repeat their success! The following listening sessions are tentative and could still change, but we wanted you to be the first to know, so we can begin organizing a coordinated response:

More are in the planning stages and they also plan to add listening sessions to existing events such as the Outdoor Nation Youth Summit in New York City on June 19-20 and the Outdoor Industry Association Trade Show in Salt Lake City on August 3-6.  If you have additional details please let us know right away at policy@lta.org.

Through several organizing calls and the distribution of our talking points, Montana land trusts rallied at least 50 land trust staff, board members, volunteers and landowners to participate in the listening sessions.  We hope to facilitate similar coordination at each of these events, so please e-mail us if you'd like to get linked up with others strategizing in your state.  You may find it helpful to frame your responses in anticipation of the questions asked in Montana:

  1. What conservation strategies have worked?
  2. What are the obstacles to conservation and connecting people to the outdoors?
  3. How can federal agencies be better partners?
  4. What new conservation tools are needed?

These questions are echoed in the America's Great Outdoors IdeaJam where new categories have been added for "Challenges," "What Works," "Federal Government Role" and "Tools."  We encourage you to register and post ideas in these categories.  We also still need your help driving votes to the land trust ideas that have already been posted -- they're being overtaken!  Please click here for a list of those ideas and templates for action alerts to your members.

Senate Vote on Incentive Renewal Delayed

eNews UPDATE: On Tuesday evening, Senate leaders admitted that there were not 60 votes for the current "extenders" bill and announced plans to proceed with a series of amendment votes over the coming days.  To see just how complicated this process has become, watch the live debate on C-SPAN2.  While the path to enactment is unclear, all parties remain at the table, and we've seen no evidence that our extension of the enhanced easement incentive is at risk.

On Wednesday, June 9th, the Senate approved several amendments to the "extenders" bill that passed the House on May 28th.  That bill contains a one-year extension of the enhanced easement incentive.   Unfortunately, a vote to proceed was put off until at least June 15th as it became clear the current language didn't yet have the 60 votes needed.  On March 10, Senators Kit Bond (R-MO), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), David Vitter (R-LA) and George Voinovich (R-OH) crossed party lines to pass H.R. 4213, but subsequent changes have sharpened the partisan divide.

Meanwhile, key House leaders have expressed reservations about the Senate changes adopted Wednesday, raising the prospect that this frustrating game of legislative ping pong may continue indefinitely unless a conference is called to resolve these differences.  So far, the enhanced easement incentive has been included in all versions of the bill, including the Republican substitute proposal floated today.

Our $190 million extension is a tiny part of this hundred billion dollar bill, with little influence on its prospects, but it never hurts to remind your Members of Congress that this lapse in the incentive has greatly slowed the pace of conservation and is a hardship for the landowners you work with.  A one-year extension is important, but more than anything, this lapse illustrates the urgency of making the incentive permanent this year!  Click here for talking points, fact sheets and advice.

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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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