U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
of the Legislation
WATER: We are essentially running out of conventional water
services for future development in much of the United States. California will be out of water under
current usage patterns by 2010; Atlanta is currently studying desalinization
plants on the Georgia coast to solve its looming
water shortage. Because of the
way that land allows water to be held, to perk, and to be cleaned, a land
preservation program must be a material part of any solution to our future
ECONOMY: Our economy has been, and always will be, dependent
on the quality of our natural ecosystem estate.
That estate has been so abundant that for most of our country’s
history, we have essentially been able to take it for granted. This reality is best evidenced by the fact that
we have not priced the value of natural ecosystem services into our valuation
of land. Unless we aggressively take action today, our economy, and any
potential for strong future economic growth will be significantly diminished.
CULTURE: Our national culture, as diverse as it is, has
always arisen from our relationship with our land. Population growth, demographics, estate taxes,
property taxes, zoning, and other factors have conspired to change dramatically
our land usage patterns, which in turn has begun to change dramatically
our culture and our values. While
this is certainly not all negative, the inability to value and conserve
land in a way that recognizes its profound effect on our culture is extraordinarily
FARMERS AND RANCHERS: Population growth, demographics, estate taxes,
and property taxes, have conspired to diminish greatly our ranch and farm
lands throughout the United States and perhaps especially the
fertile lands surrounding many of our urban centers. This has become such a significant problem in
the West that the Western Governors’ Association has joined with the National
Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Trust for Public Land to state that
the “dire need” for the creation of programs to fund conservation easement
acquisition programs cannot be “overstated”.
5. AIR: While there is evidence that our air quality has somewhat improved, that improvement
as well as the overall air quality is absolutely dependent on the continued
sequestration of carbons and other harmful materials by our trees and
plants. Poor land stewardship continues
to threaten that critical base of protection, and consequently any effective
long term air quality solution must include a very intentional and very
strategically planned land conservation program.
THE BILL WORKS:
PRIVATE: The public acquires and preserves the conservation
value of the land that it needs but the title, maintenance, and operation
of the land stays in private control.
This also keeps the land on the property tax roles.
VOLUNTARY: Landowners participation in this program is voluntary. Under
the Bill, no landowner can be required to participate. If and when a landowner decides to participate,
then that participation is determined on a fully negotiated basis with
the landowner reserving the right to withdraw from the negotiations without
penalty at any time until agreement is reached.
MARKET-BASED: Any conservation easement acquired under the Bill will
be acquired for a value not greater than its appraised value but in every
case as the result of a voluntary arm’s length negotiation between buyer
STRATEGIC: Because the Bill allocates a specific amount
of capital to each State over a set period of time, each State can plan
and pursue strategic conservation rather than the opportunistic conservation
that has been the historical model (e.g., rather than protecting something
because it has become available for protection, States will be able to
construct and execute high return, planned strategies for conservation
NO NEW FEDERAL BUREAUCRACY: Essentially all dollars will
be used to conserve land, and the placement of those dollars will be through
existing 501(c)(3) conservation organizations working with oversight from
the Federal and State Governments. The
result is that no new federal bureaucracy will be needed to administer
URGENCY AND LOCAL LEADERSHIP:
Because of our land use patterns and trends, there is an immediate need
to take action. The only way to
achieve this effectively is to empower citizens to determine what lands
need to be conserved in their communities and to give them the tools and
incentives to act. The Bill does this and is in fact organized
around this reality.
TAX CREDITS: The use of tax credits allows
taxpayers to use their tax dollars in their communities as a way to conserve
land but also to respond to the urgent need for doing so. It also allows more people to participate, either
through allocation of their own tax obligations or by soliciting their
neighbors and friends to participate
ECONOMIC RETURN: Based on a study by the World
Resources Institute, it can be conservatively estimated that the investment
contemplated by the Bill will produce an annual return of six times
the investment of all such tax credits. The Institute supports this by establishing
the value of the natural economic services that the conserved land will
EQUITY: The Bill recognizes that the conservation and
restoration of our natural infrastructure is everyone’s responsibility
and that it is much too important to rely primarily on a donative strategy. By moving to an acquisition system, we will
also be able to obtain clearer and better strategic results for our nation.
SCALE: The Bill is designed to respond to our national
needs and consequently scales its remedies and program to that requirement.
EVERY STATE: Ecosystems do not recognize
or honor state lines. The Bill
recognizes this and, to accomplish its goals, directly encourages every
State to participate.
CAPITAL ALLOCATION: Capital is allocated among
the States under the Bill pursuant to the amount of private open space
(more precisely defined under the Federal land census as private farm,
ranch and forest lands) that each State has relative to the total amount
of such lands that the Nation has. Notwithstanding
the formula, no State shall receive more than 4% of the annual total allocation.