Nature Noted

Notes on a changing Nature

Location: Bellville, Texas, United States

I never would have predicted this one

Monday, February 14, 2005

The Battle Plan

This is the letter sent to Land Trust Leaders last week by LTA President Rand Wentworth, outlining the plan to fight the loss of the conservation easement deduction. It looks as though the troops are being mobilized.

"To all leaders in conservation:
We recently alerted you to a proposal by the Joint Committee on Taxation to drastically cut back tax benefits for conservation donations -- donations of land, donations of conservation easements, and bargain sales (the details can be seen at  
We need to immediately to generate overwhelming opposition to this approach , so that Congress realizes that they can't adopt it without harming the people who vote for them.
Why Your Actions Are Critical
LTA has been working hard to discredit the Joint Committee's recommendations.  But we urgently need your help -- because local land trusts and their local allies have the best opportunity to demonstrate to Congressmen and Senators that the people they represent would be hurt by them.  Every email/letter/phone call to your own Senators and Congressional Representatives will help in that.   We have posted on our website draft messages and our recommendations for ways you can use your board, your volunteers, and your donors in this effort.  I want to thank those people who have already written, and who are taking the initiative to get others to write.

Here's how you can help:

1. Write Letters
We need you to generate local input to all Members of Congress, particularly the key members, about the local consequences of the JCT proposals. Start by asking your board members, landowners, donors and members to send a letter opposing the proposal and promoting private land conservation. We have posted the tools you need on our web site .
2. Arrange Visits with Key Leaders
We need to have in-person lobbying  of key Congressional leaders by local conservation leaders, local government officials, the DC representatives of the national conservation organizations that are members of LTA, and by LTA's staff, faculty and associates.  LTA and your State Service Center (if you have one) will help you arrange these meetings.  Contact Christen Linke Young at for assistance.  Key leader meetings are paramount. (see list on
Some Members of Congress are more influential than others.  A list of the Senators and Congresspersons we most need to influence is posted here   If you or your supporters have a close relationship with any of them, please email Christen Young at with that information.  We will help land trusts organize visits with these key members over the next month in DC  or in their home districts either, on weekends or during the February 21-25 Congressional recess.
3. Identify Partners
We are recruiting people and organizations who aren't land trusts, but share an interest in our work, to make statements opposing what the Joint Committee has proposed .  That includes outreach to Governors, sportsmen's and wildlife conservation organizations, agricultural organizations, state governments, and federal conservation agencies.   We are doing that in Washington, DC -- and its something that you can do, with the people and organizations you work with locally .  Email these names or contacts to us at .
4. Educate Members of Congress Continually
Building on this work to ensure that every Senator and Congressperson knows and values the work of land trusts .  This is not an overnight task.  It will require us providing training, materials and motivation to every land trust in the country to develop strong relationships with their elected representatives.
5. Media
We are also working to build a long-term plan to increase public recognition of the value of the work of land trusts .  It is important to place positive conservation stories in your local newspaper and try to get your editorial board to write an endorsement of conservation easement and land trusts.  Here is the link ( to a newsletter template that you can use for your newsletter on current challenges to private conservation.  Currently we are working with the media people at The Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, The Trust for Public Land, The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Institute, and The Conservation Fund on a short term media plan.  By next week, we will have additional guidance and tools for you to use...stay tuned.
What LTA Has Done To Date
We have spoken with the staff of the Senate Finance Committee about the report.  We have built strong relationships there over the past year, and that is paying off now.  We have met with key people in the White House and the Department of Interior to alert them and ask their help in opposing this.
1. Building Consensus and Organization
I had a conference call with the CEOs of The Nature Conservancy, The Conservation Fund, American Farmland Trust, The Trust for Public Land, Ducks Unlimited, The National Trust for Historic Preservation, The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and a handful of our larger regional land trusts.  They all agreed on the seriousness of this issue.  The top policy people from those organizations met here at LTA on Tuesday and agreed on first steps for work here in DC over the next month, including coordinated visits to key Congressional leaders.  We held two (2) conference calls in the last week with the leaders of 33 state land trust service centers to begin the outreach effort to all land trusts.  In states where there is no State Service Center, LTA will ask at least one Executive Director of a larger land trust to volunteer to be a state coordinator of all land trusts response to congress from that state.
2. Staffing
We have a team of experienced tax lobbyists already in place, and they are already touching base with the House and Senate leadership to assess where we are, and who will be willing to help us.  We need to raise the funds to hire additional lobbyist who have access to Congressional leaders.  LTA has shifted its staff to work on this, and virtually every LTA staff person will have a role in this effort.
3. Fundraising
This crisis is going to require us to raise significant levels of new funding.  We hope that all land trusts and board members to consider a gift to LTA's "Conservation Defense Fund" for this effort.  Forward all funds to Land Trust Alliance 1331 H Street NW, Ste 400, Washington, DC 20005.  We are also reaching out to foundations and donors who can help as it is evident that this will be a very expensive year in regards to our policy work.  If you have donors whom you believe will want to help fund this work, please email me at:  
We must all stay focused on immediate steps over the next few weeks.  But success will also require that we continue to work through this year, and over the next several years.  We now face a great likelihood that Congress, even if they reject the Joint Committee's approach, will propose other ways to prevent abuses of deductions for conservation donations.  That means we will be working closely with the Congress over the next year on the issue of what they should  do.  
It also means changing our work and your work to ensure that the public -- and their elected Representatives -- understand the importance of the conservation work you are doing.  If we don't, the problems we face now could come back at any time in the future.
We continue to try to increase communication and coordination with you  and all of our partners on this issue.  This is important now -- and will be even more important in the future, as Congress begins to discuss other alternatives to the current rules about conservation donations.  We pledge to listen carefully to you, and to safeguard the interests of all  legitimate land trusts.  If you have comments, ideas or questions, send them to
I can't talk to each one of you about this issue, but I do want to hear from you.   If you have ideas or resources you could bring to bear on this problem, please let us know.  If you think we are headed in the wrong direction, let us know.  It has never been more important.  We can work with you to put these ideas and information to work -- but only if you tell us about them.

Thank you for working together to ensure private land conservation is viable and thriving in the future.
Rand Wentworth
Land Trust Alliance"


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