SRT Speaks Up for Conservation in Halls of Congress

By Adam Livingston, SRT Director of Planning and Policy

Much of SRT’s policy outreach happens at local, regional and state levels. However, we also work nationally; an important part of our work is supporting federal funding for conservation, and ensuring that this funding reaches the Southern Sierra and San Joaquin Valley.

Among other successes, we collaborated with farmers, ranchers and fellow conservationists to secure increased funding for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program in the 2018 Farm Bill, permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 2019, and passage of both the Great American Outdoors Act and the America’s Conservation Enhancement Act in 2020.

Our nation is deeply divided on many issues, but the good news is that broad, bipartisan support continues for conserving natural and working lands for future generations. We are grateful to see that the newly-signed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes $5.7 billion for wildfire management and restoration, and along with others in the land trust community, we support provisions in the Build Back Better Act that would help farmers and ranchers adapt to climate change, including $28 billion to strengthen Farm Bill conservation programs.

We are also advocating for increased funding for land trusts to work with willing landowners to help meet federal and state goals of conserving 30% of natural and working lands by 2030.

Just as importantly, we are working to ensure that the federal conservation easement tax deduction is limited to legitimate, charitable donations of conservation easements. In recent years, bad actors have sought tax benefits for “syndicated easements,” a type of abusive transaction in which fraudulently-claimed deductions are used to cheat taxpayers and make profits for investors. The Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act, which SRT and other Land Trust Alliance members support, would put an end to syndicated easements, while maintaining the conservation easement tax deduction for legitimate transactions. We continue to advocate for passage of this important piece of legislation, whether as part of the Build Back Better Act (as it was prior to the full House vote last month) or as a separate bill.

In the coming year, we will continue to speak up for our region’s natural and working lands at the federal level, and collaborate with partners to ensure that conservation funding reaches the places that need it most. As always, we are grateful for all that SRT’s supporters do to make this work possible.