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Small Victories Amidst the Budget Cutting Fervor

Advocates Alert: August 5, 2011

Congress has agreed on a process to cut more than $2 trillion from projected deficits over the next ten years. This agreement will place extraordinary pressure on government funding and tax incentives for conservation. But despite the budget-cutting fervor, your hard work educating Congress about conservation resulted in two important victories:

Scroll down for more on these important demonstrations of support, but first the big picture…

Debt Deal Makes Relationships with Congress More Important than Ever

The Budget Control Act, enacted Tuesday, mandates two rounds of deficit reduction.

The first round imposes $917 billion in discretionary spending cuts over the next decade. The Appropriations committees will have to decide where those cuts are made and your advocacy can help keep important conservation programs off the chopping block.

The second round creates a new super-committee to propose another $1.2 - 1.5 trillion in deficit reduction by November 23. Their proposal may consider additional discretionary spending cuts, entitlement reforms, or revenue increases (such as new limits on charitable tax deductions).

Independent Sector provides a good summary of the agreement and materials to defend the charitable deduction.

In this challenging environment, it's more important than ever for you to be sure your Members of Congress know how federal programs and charitable giving incentives support the public interest in your community. August recess is a key opportunity to show them that the places you conserve aren't "wasteful government spending" or "tax loopholes." See our site visit guide and gallery of successful events for ideas. Even if it's too late to schedule an event of your own, ask their district offices about public events your supporters can attend to stand up and make a point about the need to support land conservation.

Good Bass-Murphy Amendment Passes, Bad Interior Bill Stalls

Last Tuesday, the House approved an amendment by Congressmen Charlie Bass (R-NH) and Christopher Murphy (D-CT) to restore $20 million to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, including $7 million for Forest Legacy. The House also adopted an amendment by Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) adding an additional $5 million to LWCF for providing access to public lands.

While small in the context of a $235 million cut, these amendments increased the House bill's funding for LWCF by 47% and represent a significant symbolic victory.

The House failed to get to a final vote on the Interior Appropriations bill before adjourning.  In September, they could finish this bill -- but it is more likely that they will proceed directly to negotiations with the Senate on an overall spending package.

Easement Incentive Has More Co-sponsors than Any Other Bill

Our House bill to make the enhanced easement incentive permanent (H.R. 1964) is one of the few remaining issues on which Democrats and Republicans stand together.  It now has more co-sponsors than any of the 2,500 other bills currently pending before Congress. Our list of 260 co-sponsors is a wonderful testament to how far you've come over the past decade in educating Congress about the importance of land conservation.

Help keep the Conservation Easement Incentive Act on top of the heap. Please check the list. If your Representative isn't listed, please use the August recess to ask him or her to co-sponsor H.R. 1964. Support that runs the gamut from Ron Paul (R-TX) to Barney Frank (D-MA) shows that there is room for any Rep. to sign-on, regardless of ideology.

And don't forget the Senate bill! Montana and Rhode Island are the only states with both Senators signed-on. Please urge your Senators to co-sponsor the Rural Heritage Conservation Act, S. 339.

Click here for talking points, fact sheets and letters of support.

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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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