National Issues

Farm Bill: Forest Legacy Program

A diverse network of forest land owners, state officials, environmental groups and land trusts are urging lawmakers to make it easier and more cost-effective for state agencies to conserve land by partnering with land trusts.

The USDA Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program provides money to states to pay for public-private conservation efforts with fees generated by offshore oil and gas leases. It has conserved 2.2 million acres since its creation in the 1990 Farm Bill, but could do more if state agencies responsible for implementing the program could call on qualified land trusts to help hold and maintain conservation easements funded by the program, according to 40 groups from across the country. The groups signed on to a letter (download here) sent to the leaders and ranking members of the Senate and House Agriculture committees, which are holding hearings to reauthorize the next Farm Bill.

In 2012 the Forest Legacy program will provide $5.2 million to protect more than 90,000 acres of working forestland from development in 17 states across the country. The funds are primarily awarded to state agencies to purchase conservation easements from willing landowners, ensuring their well-managed forests will stay standing in perpetuity. Both cost-effective and practical, conservation easements keep productive forestland intact, privately owned and contributing to local tax rolls. They conserve working landscapes that sustain rural economies while providing clean air and water, climate stabilization and other benefits serving people everywhere. (Read MoreDownload Letter)

2013 Highlands Act / Land and Water Conservation Fund

LWCF Fact Sheet

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Talking Points

Letter Supporting Highlands

Letter Supporting LWCF

The President released his FY2013 budget on February 13, 2012 requesting $450 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, but the budget request did not include any funding for the Highlands Conservation Act, which has been traditionally funded through LWCF. Congress will now take the President’s budget as a starting point in drafting an appropriations bill.

Protection of the Highlands is a collaborative endeavor, with almost a decade of success as a landscape-level conservation initiative. All federal Highlands dollars are matched 100 percent by state, local, and private organizations, making Highlands funding an effectively leveraged investment of federal resources.

The Highlands region provides clean and plentiful drinking water to more than 20 million people, and is home to 150 bird and mammal species of special concern and 97 critical treasures conservation areas. Expanding populations and development pressures threaten to further fragment and disrupt these important wildlife habitats and watershed lands.

Contact your congressman in support of these two programs. Using the talking points provided, ask that they sign on to the letters linked above.

Conservation Title of the Farm Bill

Several national organizations are leading an effort to secure at least 500 signers to demonstrate widespread and diverse support for the Conservation Title of the Farm Bill in advance of Congressional action on its reauthorization.

Why is the Conservation Title of the Farm Bill so important? The Farm Bill is by far the most important legislation for conserving private lands in the U.S. Through a number of programs (WRP, CRP, EQIP, WHIP, etc.), the Conservation Title provides incentives to farmers, ranchers, and other private landowners nationwide and here in Pennsylvania to help deliver cleaner water, improved soil conservation, enhanced wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation opportunities, increased flood control and economic benefits for local communities and rural economies. If you care about farming, wildlife, hunting, fishing, clean water, and the sustainability of our rural lands, you care about the Conservation Title.

Take Action!

Federal Enhanced Easement Incentive

Fact Sheet

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Talking Points

The enhanced easement incentive expired on December 31, 2011. Bills to make it permanent, H.R. 1964 and S. 339, now have an impressive 299 co-sponsors in the House and we’re launching a renewed push to build support in the Senate.

The enhanced tax deduction for conservation easement donations has helped America’s landtrusts work with farmers, ranchers and other modest-income landowners to increase the pace of conservation by a third to over a million acres a year!  But the incentive expired at the end of 2011, so fewer landowners will receive tax benefits from the generous donation of development rights on their land.

Fortunately, bills to make the incentive permanent, S. 339 and H.R. 1964, are being championed by the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus (D-MT) and an impressive 299 co-sponsors in the House, including the Chairman, the Ranking Democrat and a majority of both parties on the Ways & Means Committee. In fact, H.R. 1964 currently has more co-sponsors than any other tax bill!

Take Action!

You can take action today by calling the capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 and asking your Members of Congress to co-sponsor:

  • Representatives can co-sponsor the Conservation Easement Incentive Act, H.R. 1964, by contacting Lori Prater (5-4315) in the office of Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA)  or Carla McGarvey (5-3311) in the office of Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA).
  • Senators can co-sponsor the Rural Heritage Conservation Act, S. 339, introduced by Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) by calling Tiffany Smith (4-4515) at the Senate Finance Committee.

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