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Four Days Left for Senate LWCF Letter, Promote the Easement Incentive Over Recess

Advocates Alert: March 22, 2010

With a year of healthcare tunnel vision almost behind them, Members of Congress will be eager to hear about something else for a change.  Here are some ideas as Congress heads into the Spring District Work Period.

114 Reps Sign LWCF Letter, Just 15 Senate Signers with 4 Days LeftUPDATE: The Senate Letter Deadline has been extended to Friday at Noon.

With your help, we overcame the deafening roar of healthcare lobbying to secure a respectable 114 signers on the House letter seeking increased funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and Forest Legacy Program!  The signed letter is now available! (UPDATED) Please click here to see if your Rep signed, and if so please find a way to say thank you!

With four days left, the Senate LWCF letter has just 15 signers, far short of last year's letter, which had 46 signers.  Even if you've called or emailed before, please follow-up with each of your Senators today!

Given how busy the switchboard has been, you might consider sending a brief email to staff using the addresses in the signers chart.  Attach a copy of the letter, mention if they've signed in previous years, and urge them to sign-on by Noon on Friday, March 26th (UPDATED). Be sure to introduce yourself, the organization you represent and any past relationship with their office -- encourage them to think of you as a local resource on future land conservation issues. For detailed instructions, see last week's alert.

Incentive Renewal Likely Delayed Into April, Ask for Help in Person

The looming expiration of unemployment benefits and other must-pass provisions is a significant driver behind H.R. 4213, which includes a one-year renewal of our enhanced easement incentive.  But given a preoccupation with healthcare, Congress appears poised to extend those benefits through April 30th, delaying House consideration of the broader "extenders" package until after Congress returns from its spring recess on April 12th.

That recess, March 26-April 11, is an important opportunity to show your Members of Congress first-hand how uncertainty about the future of the tax incentive is hampering conservation in your community.  You could invite them to visit a property that was conserved just before the incentive expired, or ask for a meeting in their district office and bring along a landowner whose easement donation is in limbo, pending renewal of the incentive.  

For more ideas, examples and templates, please click here. If you're unable to arrange a meeting on such short notice, you can try for the Memorial Day recess May 29-June 6 or ask if your Rep. will be hosting any public events that you could attend.

As tempting as it is to focus entirely on securing this one-year extension, we also need your help emphasizing that eight months won't be nearly enough time for most landowners to properly consider and execute this perpetual commitment of their most valuable asset.  To reach its full potential, this incentive must be made permanent!  Legislation reforming the estate tax appears to be the most promising vehicle for enacting a permanent incentive this year, so we encourage you to share our estate tax fact sheet with your Congressional delegation.

Tax Season Reminder: Send Substantiation Letters!

Don't forget -- If you receive a donation of land or a conservation easement, you must send a letter to the donor acknowledging the gift and stating that they received no goods or services in return -- or you put your donor at risk of an IRS audit!  The IRS claims that neither form 8283 nor language in the easement itself can substitute for this requirement.  Click here for more on substantiation letters, which must be received before the donor files their taxes for the year of donation.

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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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