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.
2015 Updates & 2016 Priorities
- Federal Tax & Conservation Programs
- 2016 Update: Peconic Bay Region Community Preservation Fund
- 2016 Update: New York State's Environmental Protection Fund and the Conservation Partnership Program
- Plum Island Coalition
- America's Great Outdoor Initiative
- Background on the Estate Tax
Federal Updates as of January 2016
The following is an update on the current legislative outlook adapted based on information provided by the Land Trust Alliance and other sources:
- Enhanced Easement Incentive Now Permanent: At the end of December 2015, with bi-partisan support, Congress passed (Senate: 65-33; House: 318-109) and the President signed into law legislation that makes permanent a federal tax incentive supporting land conservation. First enacted as a temporary provision in 2006, the incentive is directly responsible for conserving more than 2 million acres of America's natural outdoor heritage. Thank you to Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, along with Long Island Congressional Representatives Lee Zeldin, Peter King and Kathleen Rice for their support. For more information on the tax incentive, how they work and their benefit to all of us, we have prepared a special white paper. Contact Julie Zaykowski, Director of Administration, at 631.283.3195 if you have additional questions. If you have questions regarding easement donations, including bargain sales, please contact Melanie Cirillo, Director of Conservation Planning at 631.283.3195.
- 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 Also, geographic limitations on conservation incentives that lower estate taxes are permanently repealed.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. Additional information on the Federal Estate Tax, can be found below.
- 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).
- The Forest Legacy Management Flexibility Act of 2015. Thank you to Congressman Lee Zeldin for sponsoring this bill, which would allow qualified non-profit land trusts to hold the interests in land (conservation easements) financed in part by Forest Legacy funds, if a state voluntarily chooses to elect this option for a particular easement or easements. For more information on this Act, click here for a white paper on frequently asked questions.
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!
New York State:
Peconic Bay Region Community Preservation Fund Extension: 2050
At the end of December 2015, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law that would enable the Community Preservation Fund, a 2 percent real estate transfer tax, to be extended to the year 2050 -- 20 years beyond its current sunset period. The law, which passed both the New York State Senate and Assembly earlier this year, was proposed by Senator Ken LaValle and Assemblymen Fred Thiele & Anthony Palumbo. The Community Preservation Fund, which was first approved by voters in 1999, provides funding to each of the five East End Towns (East Hampton, Riverhead, Shelter Island, Southampton and Southold) to protect farmland, open space, and historic structures. The fund has been key to the preservation of nearly 10,000 acres that define community character and has raised over $1 billion. The current legislation is subject to a sunset date of 2030.
For the change to occur, it would need to go to public referendum in each of the five towns -- which could take place in the fall of 2016.
The change in law would not only extend the 2 percent transfer tax by 20 years, but would also include a new provision that would allow each of the Towns to allocate up to 20 percent of CPF receipts to water quality protection projects. Each town would be responsible to develop and approve a water quality protection plan, specific to their Town's needs and requirements. If the CPF Extension is approved by voters in the fall of 2016, the water quality provision would go into effect in 2017. For more information about the Community Preservation Fund, click here. For additional questions call Julie Zaykowski at 631.283.3195 or JZaykowski@PeconicLandTrust.org.
New York State's Environmental Protection Fund
and the Conservation Partnership Program
At the end of November 2015, the Peconic Land Trust signed on to a letter to Governor Cuomo requesting an appropriation of $300 million for the Environment Protection Fund in the Executive Budge proposal for SFY 2016-17. The "We Love New York" letter, from The Friends of New York's Environment, was signed on by over 120 organizations from across New York State (for more details, click here for a copy of the letter) and highlights the benefits of funding for the EPF in support of land conservation, farmland protection, municipal parks, waterfront revitalization. A 2012 analysis by The Trust for Public Land found that for every $1 of EPF funds invested in land and water protection, $7 in economic benefits are generated for New York State.
Update: On January 5, 2015, Governor Cuomo announced that he would propose $300 million EPF in his Executive Budget!
To learn more about the EPF and the We Love New York campaign, visit the Friends of NY's Environment website.
In FY 2015/16, the enacted New York State Budget included $177 million in appropriations for the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). A $15 million increase over the previous fiscal year.After steep cuts and significant sweeps of EPF funding during the economic crisis, the continued restoration of the EPF is critical to support programs that create jobs, protect clean water and improve communities in every county of New York State. This $15M increase in FY 2015/16 was important progress towards our shared goal of reaching a $200M EPF in the near future, and a fully-funded $300M EPF in the long-term.
The Trust staff will join land trust and farmland advocates for a Lobby Days organized by both the Friends of New York's Environment and American Farmland Trust (New York) for request funding for the State's Environmental Protection Fund and Farmland Protection Program in February/March 2016. Interested in joining us? 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.
Plum Island Coalition
The Peconic Land Trust has joined a coalition of organizations --the Preserve Plum Island Coalition (PPIC). Plum Island is a federally owned, 840 acre ecological, cultural and historic treasure in Long Island Sound, off of Long Island's Orient Point, in the Town of Southold, NY. Over 80 percent of the island in undeveloped -- its habitats and ecological interactions with the other nearby islands and surrounding rich estuarine waters give Plum Island high ecological value. The Preserve Plum Island Coalition, made up of over 60 organizations from New York and Connecticut advocates for the permanent protection of the Island's irreplaceable resources. For more information, visit PreservePlumIsland.org.
America's Great Outdoors
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.
Former Congressman Tim 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 November 2009 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: https://www.governor.ny.gov/contact
New York State Senate: www.nysenate.gov
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