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Election Special: Easement Incentive, Priorities Survey, Community Forests

Advocates Alert: November 2, 2010

We hope you'll be joining the millions of Americans heading to the polls this morning!  Thanks to your hard work building relationships on both sides of the aisle, we believe the easement incentive and other land trust priorities are well positioned whichever party emerges victorious today.

Be There When Your Legislators Say Thank You -- Easement Incentive is Job 1!

Much has been made of the turnover expected in today’s election, and while dozens of legislators will be true "lame ducks," the vast majority of Members of Congress will spend the next two weeks in their districts saying thank you to the voters who sent them back to Washington.  This brief period before the "lame duck" session starts on November 15 is an essential opportunity to make sure permanence for the easement incentive is seen as a top priority!

Beat the rush by requesting in-district meetings with your Senators and Rep today!  Find phone numbers for their nearest district offices (or other meeting request instructions) at www.senate.gov and www.house.gov.  Even if their meeting schedules are booked up, calling district offices is a great way to find out about victory events where you can just show up and meet them.  If possible, bring along landowners who are in limbo due to this lapse in the incentive.

Later this week is also a good time to call their tax staffers in DC, as they re-focus on what can be achieved in the lame duck session (Switchboard: 202-224-3121).  Here's why we believe the enhanced easement incentive has a real shot at permanence -- in the lame duck:

  • It's something everybody agrees on -- Bills to make the incentive permanent, S. 812 and H.R. 1831, have 268 House and 41 Senate co-sponsors, representing majorities of both parties and all 50 states.
  • It doesn't cost much -- Congress will be debating over $1 trillion in expiring tax provisions.  By contrast, making the enhanced incentive permanent would cost less than $1 billion over ten years -- a remarkable bargain for boosting conservation by about 250,000 acres a year.
  • Permanence is crucial for conservation -- Paralyzed by uncertainty about tax benefits, 2010 is shaping up to be a lost year for conservation. This incentive won't work retroactively and must be permanent to reach its full potential. Clarification: Any extension will likely be retroactive, but at this late date it won't provide much incentive for conservation in 2010. Read our FAQ.

For more talking points, fact sheets and advice please visit our How You Can Help page.

Vote in Our Election Too -- Last Chance to Comment on 2011 Priorities

Tell us what the Alliance should prioritize in 2011 by reading our policy options memo and voting online.  We're extending the deadline through this Friday, November 5.

We'd like to thank all the early respondents and attendees of Rally 2010's Policy Review, who provided creative new ideas, tips for engaging members, and nuanced programmatic changes that we should pursue within these broad priorities.  Even if you don't have time to fill out the whole form, please take a moment to give us your two cents about what we should do differently next year: www.surveymonkey.com/s/AlliancePriorities.

Sign a Letter to Get the Community Forest Program off the Ground

Have you heard of the Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program?  Authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, this brand new program provides 50-50 matching funding for land trusts, local governments and Indian tribes to purchase threatened forests.  Small early appropriations have helped to design the program, but we need your help to getting the grants program off the ground in Fiscal Year 2012.

Please sign your organization on to this letter urging the Obama administration to request at least $10 million for the program in their FY12 budget request.  To sign, please email jad.daley@tpl.org by Friday, November 5.

The "proposed rule" for the program (under the slimmed down name of "Community Forest Program") will be published for public comment sometime in December.  This will put the program on track to begin making grants in FY12.  Click here for a fact sheet and examples of projects the program could fund.

It should be noted that the Community Forest Program is different from the "community forestry bonds," proposed in the Community Forestry Conservation Act.  That tax bill, which we also support, would enable land trusts to use municipal bonds to purchase and operate working forests.

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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