The Peconic Land Trust is committed to keeping landowners, donors and our government partners up to date on the latest issues concerning land conservation legislation. Please check back often for updates.
For links to contact your Government officials, click here.
2013 Updates & 2014 Priorities
- Federal Estate Tax
- New York State's Environmental Protection Fund and the Conservation Partnership Program
- America's Great Outdoor Initiative
- Background on the Estate Tax
Updates as of March 15, 2014
The following is an update on the current legislative outlook adapted based on information provided by the Land Trust Alliance:
- Enhanced Easement Incentive, expired December 31, 2013: A renewal of this incentive was passed for 2012 (retroactively) and 2013 as part of the bill that averted the "fiscal cliff" on January 1st. This helped land trusts work with farmers, ranchers and other modest-income landowners to increase the pace of conservation. No extension has been passed yet for 2014 (or ever better permanent legislation) -- although there is support for the incentive bills H.R. 2807 and S.526. To find out if your Senator or Congressperson has signed on, and for more information, visit the Land Trust Alliance website for the latest updates. Currently, about 1/3 of the legislators have signed on as co-sponsors. If you have questions regarding easement donations, including bargain sales, please contact Melanie Cirillo, Director of Conservation Planning at 631.283.3195 or MCirillo@PeconicLandTrust.org.
- Charitable Deduction: This remains largely intact, however, the current bill does bring back the "Peace Amendment," which gradually reduces the value of itemized deductions against income exceeding $250,000.
- Estate Tax Incentives: The Estate Tax retains its current $5 million unified credit, indexed for inflation, but the top rate rises to 40%. Also, geographic limitations on conservation incentives that lower estate taxes are permanently repealed. The Peconic Land Trust continues to pursue the deferral of estate taxes on land of conservation value with our local representatives. For more information, contact Julie Zaykowski at 631.283.3195 or JZaykowski@PeconicLandTrust.org.
- Farm Bill Easement Programs: A new farm bill was passed and signed into law by President Obama on February 7, 2014 -- this bill provides more than $1 billion for conservation. (The Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP), funded under the Farm Bill, was instrumental in the protection of the farmland at Sylvester Manor, see the August 8, 2012 press release).
Please continue to advocate, particularly for the Enhanced Easement Incentive. For more information and updates on conservation legislation, visit the Land Trust Alliance website. For links to your local representatives, see below. And remember to thank your legislators for their support of programs that are important to you!
We continue to work with our local representatives, particularly Congressman Bishop, on a long term solution for the estate tax as it relates to land of conservation value. Congressman Bishop introduced his legislation in 2013. Information on Congressman Bishop's legislation, as well as other legislative issues related to the Federal Estate Tax, can be found below.
In February 2014 the Peconic Land Trust joined the New York Land Trust Alliance and Friends of New York's Environment for a joint Lobby Day and asked legislators to increase funding for the Environmental Protection Fund to $200 million -- this is an increase over the Governor's budget proposal of $157 million for FY 2014/2015. As of mid-March, the NYS Assembly had issued a budget proposal which included $167 million for the EPF.
To learn more, visit the Friends of NY's Environment website.
The Trust staff also joined land trust and farmland advocates for a Lobby Day organized by American Farmland Trust (New York) asking for increased funding to the EPF for permanent conservation easements on farmland from the State's Farmland Protection Program. For more information, contact Julie Zaykowski at 631.283.3195.
Please contact your local representatives and ask them to support funding for the EPF. Let them know how important the environment is to you and your family, and how the EPF supports industries that contribute billions to the state's economy, including tourism, agriculture, forestry, and private investment in programs including recycling.
In April 2010, John v.H. Halsey, President of the Peconic Land Trust, joined more than three dozen land trust leaders at the White House Conference for the America's Great Outdoors Initiative.
The conference kicked off with a welcome speech by President Barack Obama, who applauded the work of the land trust community: "... rising to meet these challenges is a task and an obligation, but it's one that government cannot and should not meet alone. There are roughly 1,600 privately run land trusts in this country that have protected over 10 million acres through voluntary efforts. . . . together we are conserving our working lands in a way that preserves the environment and protects local communities."
At the meeting, President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum seeking a report on America's Great Outdoors from the Initiative by November 15th. The Initiative is led by the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality.
In his speech to the conference, the President outlined four ways he believes the government, in concert with public and private entities such as land trusts, can move the conservation story forward:
First, we're going to build on successful conservation efforts being spearheaded outside of Washington so we can write a new chapter in the protection of rivers, wildlife habitats, historic sites, and the great landscapes of our country
Second, we're going to help farmers, ranchers, property owners who want to protect their lands for their children and grandchildren.
Third, we'll help families spend more time outdoors, building on what the First Lady has done through the "let's move" initiative to encourage young people to hike and bike and get outside more often.
And fourth, we want to foster a new generation of community and urban parks so that children across American have the chance to experience places like Millennium Park in my own Chicago.
The conference generated a lot of discussion among the approximately 500 participants from all over the country . . . and John as always turned the conversation toward what the Trust's believes to be a leading factor in the loss of working farms: estate taxes -- a critical issue that is at the forefront of making the President's second point a reality for our local farm families.
The Department of the Interior set up a great website for America's Great Outdoors where the public was invited to vote on ideas for conservation, and submit their own -- including stories about land conservation. Members of the land trust community took advantage of this opportunity, and shared their stories on issues important to our community, in particular around the issues of making permanent the tax incentives for conservation easements. This made what we all do and care about real to the folks in Washington. Thank you for your contributions.
In February 2011, the landmark America’s Great Outdoors Report was introduced by President Obama at a reception at the White House. At the introduction, the President gave a boost to voluntary conservation of private land by mentioning the work of the land trust community in his remarks and the incorporation of land trust initiatives in the final report, which includes proposals to extend the enhanced tax incentives for conservation easement donations beyond 2011, fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), and focus a portion of LWCF on innovative projects that support urban parks, community green spaces, and large-scale land conservation.
Mr. Obama said at the reception: “at a time when America’s open spaces are controlled by a patchwork of groups, from government to land trusts to private citizens, it’s clear that conservation in the 21st century is going to take more than what we can do here in Washington . . . Meeting the new test of environmental stewardship means finding the best ideas at the grassroots level, it means helping states, communities and nonprofits protect their own resources, and it means figuring out how the federal government can be a better partner in those efforts.”
The report drew inspiration from hundreds of land trust participants at America’s Great Outdoors listening sessions from around the country.
To learn more about America’s Great Outdoor initiative, and to read the report, visit the Department of Interiors website at http://americasgreatoutdoors.gov.
Congressman Bishop introduced legislation in early March 2009, Farmland Preservation and Land Conservation Act of 2009 (HR 1328), which sought to exclude land of conservation value from estate tax consideration. Click here for a PDF of the legislation. The Trust has prepared two explantory documents: a white paper on the impact of Federal Estate Tax policy on farmland and natural lands and the Trust's recommendations for policy revision; and a white paper on the key points of HR 1328.
- In December, Trust President John v.H. Halsey wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times in response to a recent Op-Ed (and subsequent letters) regarding the Estate Tax and Farmers. To read the letter, click here.
If you would like to learn more about these, or other public policy issues affecting land conservation in our communities, please contact Julie Zaykowski at 631.283.3195 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, the Land Trust Alliance's website provides additional information on public policy issues impacting land conservation.
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Suffolk County Legislature: www.co.suffolk.ny.us/
Nassau County Legislture: www.nassaucountyny.gov
New York State Governor's Office: www.ny.gov/governor/contact/index.html
New York State Senate: www.senate.state.ny.us/
New York State Assembly: www.assembly.state.ny.us/
U.S. Senate: www.senate.gov/
U.S. House of Representatives: www.house.gov/
U.S. Capitol Switchboard: 202.224.3121