As Congress heads into the end of the year, the Alliance, our consultants, and the Conservation Tax Incentive Coalition are hard at work pursuing every last potential vehicle to renew the conservation tax incentive. Even if it does lapse, January budget deadlines are ripe with opportunity, so we need your help to keep the pressure on.
Speaker's Staff: "Co-sponsors Matter" -- New Tools to Add Your Rep.
Yesterday, we met with Speaker John Boehner's staff to discuss how important a permanent tax incentive is for the long-term decision of donating an easement. The clear message back was that a long, bi-partisan list of co-sponsors is a great way to stand out from the crowd. He remembered last year's total of , and while getting back to that number doesn't guarantee success, it sure would help make the case that this incentive deserves special consideration.
If your rep. is a member of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, we have great new tool for you to use. Mule Deer Foundation persuaded 30 hunting and fishing organizations to sign a letter to the caucus. More letters are in the works; check here for the latest.
Please Thank Senators Wyden and Thune
We wanted you to be the first to see the letters we sent on behalf of the land trust community thanking Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and John Thune (R-SD) for their letter defending the charitable deduction from caps proposed for other deductions as part of tax reform. The charitable deduction is crucial to land trusts across the country, so we believe this is an important opportunity for land trusts to thank the senators with a quick call or note. Read more.
Response to New York Times Op-Ed
You may have seen or heard about the op-ed in the New York Times, "How the Government Gives" (12/06/13), about federal charitable deductions that offer little or no benefit. It mentions conservation easements (with an example of golf course easements) along with nonprofit hospitals and donor-advised funds.
While this looks bad, our communications consultants advised us that such a passing reference is unlikely to have a big impact, and none of the tax staffers we met with yesterday mentioned it. That said, we have sent a letter to the editor of the Times in response, and will make that available if they accept it.
Here are some talking points you can use if you get any questions about this:
- Conservation easements have been a great success -- conserving millions of acres of land while keeping it on the tax rolls, protecting clean water supplies, and keeping working farms, ranches and forestland productive -- all for about 5% of the cost of federal land acquisition.
- Working across all 50 states and several U.S. territories, nonprofit land trusts conserve in excess of 2 million acres of land every year through the use of easements. The enhanced tax incentive for conservation easements makes it affordable for landowners with modest incomes to conserve their land.
- When donating an easement, landowners give up a major asset -- the future development rights of their lands -- for a limited tax deduction.
- Easements are an excellent example of public-private collaboration between landowners, private land trusts and the federal government that has worked for nearly 30 years.
- Anyone upset that golf courses have benefitted from this law should support the Senate bill (S.526), which bolsters conservation easements while prohibiting golf course deductions.
- The land saved is diverse, from farms in Michigan to working ranches in Montana, and forests in the Northeast and critical coastal wetlands in the southeast [feel free to add your own region\land type protected].
- Saving land that makes America great is a shared, bipartisan value. Last Congress, a majority of both Democrats and Republicans in the House supported the enhanced easement incentive, and more than 150 Representatives have already co-sponsored this year's bill.
It's Not All Bad News -- Check Out These Recent Press Clips
Latest Co-sponsors for H.R. 2807
- Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT)
- Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT)
- Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX)
Thank you for helping.
P.S. -- This email list is for land trust leaders that are interested in tax incentives for conservation. Please let me know if there others at your organization or its partners who would like to subscribe.
Russell ShayDirector of Public Policy | Land Trust Alliance
1660 L Street, NW Suite
1100Washington, D.C. 20036
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