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Alert: House Victory for LWCF, Senate Estate Tax Deferral Bill, AGO in NH

Advocates Alert: August 2, 2010

House Passes Dedicated LWCF Funding, Senate a Greater Challenge

Amidst day-to-day legislative maneuvering, few days have the patina of conservation history.  Friday was one of those days!  For the first time in over a decade, the House of Representatives passed a bill to fully dedicate the Land and Water Conservation Fund at its authorized level of $900 million a year! Thanks in part to the hard work of land trusts around the country, the House voted 209-193 to pass the CLEAR Act, H.R. 3534, an oil spill response bill, of which LWCF funding was a significant component, mentioned by at least 26 Representatives in their floor remarks.

Thanks to Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), we also made some progress on the idea of allowing LWCF to fund easement purchases by land trusts.  In the end, the Lummis amendment was not among the nine on which Congressional leaders allowed a vote, but reactions from committee staff and the organizations backing LWCF gave us hope that there could be an opening for bipartisan agreement on this idea in the future.

If your Representative voted for the bill, please call and thank him or her for making this historic victory possible! (Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121)

Senate passage will be a far greater challenge.  Each party has expressed frustration that the other is using this bill, S. 3663, as a political football.  This partisan atmosphere will make it difficult for Republican Senators--even those who have long championed LWCF--to support it.  But your real stories and the spectacular places that LWCF has helped to conserve can help trump that conventional wisdom.  Convince them this is a time to set election year politics aside and make conservation history! The Senate may vote on a motion to proceed with the oil spill bill as soon as Wednesday, so please call today!

8/3/10 UPDATE: Today, Majority Leader Reid announced he would postpone action on the oil spill bill until after the August recess.  Wednesday's vote was almost certainly doomed to failure. The next five weeks give you a chance to change the narrative!  This historic opportunity to leave a conservation legacy has become obscured in the fog of election year politics.  The upcoming recess is a chance to clear the air by inviting your Senators to see the places that could be a part of their legacy and reminding them why they supported LWCF in the first place.

Senators Introduce Bill to Defer Estate Tax on Family Farm, Ranch and Forest Land

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) recently introduced S. 3664, the Family Farm Estate Tax Deferral Act of 2010.  Like Congressman Mike Thompson's H.R. 5475, their bill would provide an indefinite deferral of estate taxes on family farm, ranch and forest land, until those lands are taken out of production or sold out of the family. The deferral doesn't come without a price--it would result in the IRS holding a lien on the property.

The Feinstein/Crapo bill also includes an expanded exclusion from estate tax for easement donors, increasing the IRC 2031(c) exclusion to 50% of the value of the protected land, and increasing the cap on that exclusion from $500,000 to $5 million.  You may recall our July 22nd alert celebrated the introduction of that provision as a stand-alone bill, S. 3640.

We encourage you to seek co-sponsors for both sets of bills:

Bills to increase the conservation easement exclusion:

  • S. 3640 -- Co-sponsor contact: Alex Harman in Senator Mark Udall's office
  • H.R. 3050 -- Co-sponsor contact: David Skillman in Rep. Earl Blumenauer's office

Bills to defer estate tax on ag land AND increase the easement exclusion:

  • S. 3664 -- Co-sponsor contact: Ahmad Thomas in Senator Dianne Feinstein's office
  • H.R. 5475 -- Co-sponsor contact: Jonathan Birdsong in Rep. Mike Thompson's office

You can reach your Senators and Rep. via the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121.  Ask them to co-sponsor either or both bills and share this fact sheet mentioning all bills or visit our estate tax page for additional materials.

New America's Great Outdoors Listening Session: Concord, NH

A new America's Great Outdoors listening session has been announced in New Hampshire, focused on the conservation of working forests. Here's the latest list of upcoming sessions:

Everybody can get involved by voting for land trust ideas in the America's Great Outdoors IdeaJam!  Many of our ideas that had been "archived" have now been re-posted in the new categories so please click here to vote today!

Thanks for helping!

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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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