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August Recess Site Visits for Congress

Advocates Alert: July 24, 2008

At our recent reception, Congressman Dave Camp (R-MI) said that the single most important thing we can do to make the easement tax incentive permanent is to show legislators about how it makes a difference on the ground, in their districts.

The August Congressional Recess is a perfect opportunity to convey compelling stories about the easement incentive firsthand. Whether it takes the form of a site visit, media event, landowner forum or something else, August is an essential time to build relationships with your legislators and the time to get started is NOW.

A complete guide and templates are available here, but some highlights are featured below.

What kind of event do you want to host? Be creative and flexible! You could invite your Members of Congress to any of the following. You can combine these, but remember you’ll likely only have an hour or two:

  • A site visit to a recently conserved property to meet a landowner of modest means who benefited from the incentive
  • A public education forum to spread the news of the easement incentive to landowners (see separate guide in the Grassroots Toolkit)
  • A press conference where you present an award for your Representative’s leadership in renewing the easement incentive
  • An existing event like your annual dinner, a volunteer day or a nature hike.
  • A meeting in your legislator’s district office—this may be less glamorous, but it’s a great chance to meet your Rep. and invite staff into the field
  • If you have trouble scheduling a meeting of your own, consider attending your legislator’s town hall meeting, pancake breakfast or similar event. These can be great opportunities to get face time.

How to get started? It’s great to brainstorm some fun ideas, but it’s important to remain flexible and build your event around what the legislator wants.

  • Start by calling up their nearest district office (check at house.gov or senate.gov).
  • Ask who handles scheduling in the district and how they prefer to receive requests (generally fax or email)
  • Put together a brief written request based on our template. Include some potential highlights but emphasize your willingness to adapt the event content, duration and timing to their schedule. For August, get your request in NOW.
  • After several days, call and speak with their scheduler about timing and options for the event. Schedulers are very busy, so if you don’t get a call back, keep trying or follow up with another staff member you’ve met before.
  • If possible, keep your event timing fluid. You’ll often need to reschedule or grab an hour of availability that comes up on short notice.
  • Don’t forget to invite staff—even if the legislator is unable to attend, his or her district director can be an important ally. Or invite the DC staffer who handles tax or conservation issues to come see the work you’re doing in the district.

As a public charity, your organization may never endorse a candidate for public office. If you are publicly thanking a member running for re-election, be sure to focus your remarks on thanking them for specific legislative actions (like renewing the incentive), rather than providing an endorsement. For more details on planning an event and avoiding such pitfalls visit our site visits page.

We are here to help and would love to hear about your event. If you have any questions or have photos to share please email policy@lta.org or call 202-638-4725 and ask for Sean or Madeline.

New Brochure Available for Landowner Outreach

The Alliance has published a new brochure, Using the Conservation Tax Incentive, to help your land trust tell potential easement donors about the tax incentive—now renewed through December 31, 2009. All land trusts that had more than one easement as of the 2005 census will receive 20 free copies. Want to be added to the list? E-mail policy@lta.org by Friday, July 25. Additional copies will be available for purchase on our publications page in August.

Thanks again for everything you did to make the new tax incentive a reality!

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