New Hampshire Land Trusts “Visit” Washington, D.C.
As part of the Land Trust Alliance’s Advocacy Days, representatives from New Hampshire’s land trust community met with Congressman Chris Pappas and the staffs from Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster and Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan.
The New Hampshire contingent included Jamey French, President of the LTA’s Board and President and CEO of Northland Forest Products in Kingston; Forest Society President Jack Savage; Monadnock Conservancy Executive Director Ryan Owen; Paul Doscher, Trustee for Trout Unlimited; Forest Society Board of Trustees member Don Floyd; and Forest Society Public Policy Manager Matt Leahy.
As part of our meeting agenda, we briefed the Congressional delegation on several important issues including how Congress can help end abusive conservation easement tax shelters; building support for the Forest Incentives Program Act; and the key role forested landscapes play in addressing climate change.
The lead topic was the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act. The federally-administered Conservation Easement Tax Incentive is an important tool to encourage land conservation and the protection of significant natural resources. In return for donating an easement to a land trust, the incentive provides landowners a charitable deduction based on their income and the fair market value of the donation.
Unfortunately, a few groups have been exploiting the tax incentive. In addition to the loss of federal revenue-the LTA estimates the unwarranted deductions totaled $36 billion between 2010 and 2018- this abuse simply undermines the fundamental purpose behind conservation easements. First proposed in 2017, the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act aims to address this on-going abuse.
Of course, climate change is the dominant environmental issue facing New Hampshire, the United States and the world. As we noted, policies that keep forests as forests will tangibly address the problems climate change is creating. New Hampshire’s land trusts are well-positioned to be part of the solution-making. We encouraged the delegation to include steps that support the protection, restoration and stewardship of open and working lands in any Climate Change-focused legislative action Congress will consider this year.
Fortunately, the federal government has in place several programs, like the Land and Water Conservation Fund and those funded through the Farm Bill, that are important to protecting open lands. In addition to those existing programs, we encouraged the delegation to support the enactment of new tools like Senator Shaheen’s proposed Forest Incentives Program Act.
Thank the NH Congressional delegation for their past support of the act and to encourage their continued support, click on the following links to each office: