Nature Noted

Notes on a changing Nature

Location: Bellville, Texas, United States

I never would have predicted this one

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Battle Stations

I have been hearing unconfirmed rumblings about the strategy by land trusts to fight the plan to cut the conservation easement deductions. Now it's all confirmed. The LTA has posted the conference call from last week. It's a 45 minute call with president Rand Wentworth, in which he asks the trusts for help, and lays out the strategy. Here's a synopsis.
First, Wentworth is convinced the Joint Committee proposal is bad news for land trusts. He says senior staffers on the committee have assured him that nothing is in stone yet, but that there is a lot of interest in the proposal to cut the deduction. Essentially, he says the deduction is in play, and in the current climate of finding money wherever Congress can, that's not good.
He says all of the big trust groups (LTA, The Nature Conservancy, Farmland Trust, Ducks Unlimited etc.) have agreed on a need for a concentrated strategy.
In addition for calling for building a grassroots campaign, the strategy has three major components.
1: Hire lobbyists with Republican connections. The three lobbyists on board are Jim Range of Baker, Donelson , Rod DeArment with Covington & Burling and Mike Henry of the Alpine Group . All are former congressional staffers turned lobbyists with strong ties to the Republican leadership.
2: Find personal connections to Congressional leaders. If you know a top dog in Congress, particularly if you are a childhood friend, you should sign up to help now.
3: Start a warchest. A fund is being set up to pay the lobbyists and to provide educational funding.

A special email address has been set up as a centralized point to send information and to sign up for action alerts. The address is

Wentworth also said land trusts should realize that they probably will have to accept some regulatory action, including tougher standards for easement appraisal and strong monetary penalties for appraisal abuse. He also says LTA is working with the Appraisal community to toughen standards. He says 90% of the Congressional concerns are over inflated appraisals of land prices.

There's much more, and I would urge anyone interested to listen to the call.
To summarize, (and to paraphrase Zevon) the strategy calls for Lobbyists, Friends and Money.


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