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AGO Projects Highlighted, Senate Restores Funding, Last Chance for Priorities Survey

Advocates Alert: November 1, 2011

This has been a critical week for Farm Bill conservation programs. Thanks to your outreach, the harmful McCain amendment, which would have continued this year's conservation program cuts over the next ten years, was withdrawn!

The Agriculture Appropriations Bill that passed today includes some cuts to the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program and the Grassland Reserve Program -- but the funding to restore those cuts will remain available to the next Farm Bill.  And that next Farm Bill could come a lot sooner than we thought, as Agriculture Committee leaders appear poised to submit a complete draft Farm Bill to the deficit-cutting "super-committee" this week. If you haven't yet called your Senators and Rep. to express your support for FRPP & GRP, please call today.

America's Great Outdoors Highlights Two Projects per State

In the nine months since the America's Great Outdoors Report was released, AGO has become a lens through which many federal conservation programs are focused -- from NRCS landscape conservation initiatives to new public lands designations. In an effort to put a compelling local face on these diverse efforts, the Department of the Interior is rolling out two illustrative examples of AGO projects in each state.

Please check their map of highlighted projects to see if your state's examples have been announced. The project pins lead to press releases that have been getting widespread local coverage. More projects are listed daily, and later this week the Department of the Interior will issue a 50-state report highlighting investments in conservation and recreation chosen by state governments and local stakeholders.

Several of the highlighted projects involve partnerships with land trusts, in fact, both New York project areas -- Finger Lakes and Harlem River -- have also been supported by Alliance-administered New York State Conservation Partnership Program grants. If you've been involved in your state's project examples, please let us know.

Senate Appropriators Restore Funding for Interior Programs

Many of those AGO projects will require funding to succeed. Thus, we are pleased to report that the Senate has released a draft Fiscal Year 2012 Interior Appropriations Bill that restores funding for important conservation programs that were cut in the House bill:

  • The Forest Legacy Program (FLP) would receive $58 million, a huge improvement over the $10 million in the amended House bill.
  • Overall, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) would receive $350 million, an increase of $50 million over last year and a vast improvement over the House bill's $90 million (which includes $29 million added by successful amendments on the House floor).
  • The North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) and State Wildlife Grants would receive $35.6 million and $61.6 million respectively. The House had proposed eliminating these programs in February's H.R. 1, and reduced funding by about half in their FY 2012 bill.
  • The Cooperative Endangered Species Fund (Section 6) would be cut to $48 million compared to $60 million last year, but it's a vast improvement from the $3 million proposed in the House bill.
  • The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) would receive $300 million, a $50 million improvement over the House bill.
  • In a pleasant surprise, the bill provides $5 million for the new Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program, up from just $1 million last year. It also seeks to reincarnate Save America's Treasures ($8 million), a historic preservation grants program that was zeroed out in Fiscal Year 2011.
  • What about FRPP & GRP? See our September 21 alert on Ag Appropriations.

These numbers are just the Senate's starting point in negotiations with the House, but House Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson (R-ID) recently expressed his willingness to work out a compromise on LWCF. We'll keep you posted as these negotiations progress.

We'd like to thank the many land trusts that helped us get to 1,000 signers on the America's Voice for Conservation Recreation and Preservation coalition letter. That letter was a featured part of a coalition press conference yesterday afternoon (see video) and it will be useful in the upcoming negotiations. Additional signers are still welcome.

Last Chance to Take our 2012 Policy Survey

We'd like to thank all the Rally 2011 attendees who participated in our policy forum. We were fascinated by the attendees' enthusiasm for a video report on policy that could be played at (or transmitted live to) land trust board meetings and other events. Would you use that kind of report? Do you have a better idea?

We're wrapping up our annual feedback survey and hope you'll take a moment to respond. In the past, we have asked you to fill out a lengthy and complicated chart, scoring a variety of factors for each potential priority. This year, we have simplified our survey form, with just a few simple questions. Please read our policy options memo and fill out our online survey by Monday, November 7.

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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