Posts Tagged ‘public land’

Washington Watch, Sept. 21

September 21, 2010

U.S. Capitol, ca. 1920 - Theodor Horydczak/Library of Congress

Periodically, the folks in TPL’s Federal Affairs department prepare a summary of conservation news from the nation’s capitol. The Washington Watch newsletter is available on the Web or by free email subscription.

To read the entire issue here.

Congress Returns
Congress returned from a six-week recess on September 14, but the legislative calendar remains somewhat murky, particularly in the Senate. With crucial midterm elections looming, and many successful challenges to incumbents already in the record books, it is uncertain how long the House and Senate will stay in Washington, DC. They are currently scheduled to work until October 8, but rumors abound that timeline will be shortened as the days tick away.
Details here

House and Senate Support More Money for DOD Buffer Program
Legislation seeking an increase in the amount of money proposed by the Obama Administration for the Department of Defense Readiness and Environment Protection Initiative (REPI) has passed the House and has been approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee. The House version of the Defense Authorization for FY 2011, passed by the House on May 28, includes a $10 million increase over the spending level included in the President’s budget, while the Senate-committee-approved version includes an increase of $25 million.
Details here

AGO Listening Sessions Have Come to An End
The Administration’s America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) initiative to develop a conservation agenda for the 21st century has wrapped up its summer season of listening sessions across the country. The Obama Administration hosted nearly two dozen events nationwide to gather ideas on how to preserve the outdoors and get more Americans outside.
Details here

NOAA’s CELCP Program Posts FY2011 Priority List
The Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP) provides state and local governments with matching grant funds to purchase conservation easements and fee acquisitions of important coastal and estuarine lands. Each year, coastal conservation projects applying for grant funding through CELCP are evaluated and ranked by an independent, competitive, merit-based panel. A priority list generated by the panel serves as a guide in selecting projects for funding once Congress completes its annual appropriations process.
Details here

FLTFA Extension Update
Just before Congress left Washington for its annual August Recess, it passed legislation that included a one-year extension of the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act. The Act expired on July 25 and the one-year extension went into effect when the law was signed on July 29. This gap of only a few days had an unfortunate consequence. While it was good news that FLTFA received a one-year extension, the funding that had been in the program’s accounts reverted to the Treasury under the terms of the original legislation.
Details here

Public Lands Bills of Interest
The 111th Congress has worked on dozens of public lands bills that still await further action before becoming enacted into law. These various bills may be addressed in an omnibus lands package, but given the complexities of the congressional calendar, it is uncertain when further action will be taken.
Details here

New Baucus Tax Legislation Includes Conservation Tax Incentive
On September 16, Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, introduced the “Job Creation and Tax Cut Act of 2010.” This bill extends a variety of tax provisions that would otherwise expire. Among these is the conservation tax incentive, which encourages the donation of conservation easements. The Baucus bill would extend the provision through 2010.
Details here

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Some in Minnesota ask: “how much public land?”

February 18, 2010

Along the Vermillion River, Minnesota - Photo: Peter Crouser

In 2008, Minnesota voters passed that state’s record-setting $5.5 billion Clean Water, Land and Legacy constitutional amendment–expected to generate approximately $200 million per year over 25 years to protect and restore natural areas, parks, and lands vital to water quality.

Now a long story by Doug Smith in the Outdoors section of the Minneapolis Star Tribune website highlights the concerns of a few Minnesotans that the Legacy program and other public land acquisition programs may be acquiring too much land. 

Each fall, the public lands are tramped by thousands of hunters. The lands also provide prime habitat for non-game wildlife, such as songbirds and swans.

Those public prairies, wetlands and forests also are open for trappers, wildlife watchers, photographers and others who seek wild places. And the lands also prevent erosion and improve water quality . . . .

But increasingly, some legislators, county officials and farm groups are questioning the state’s policy of acquiring lands. Their concerns clash head-on with hunting and other conservation groups, who say land acquisition should remain a key component of wildlife habitat preservation.

The story goes on to recite the arguments being floated against land aquisition.  Buying land for the public takes it off the tax roles (although the piece notes that the state makes payments in lieu of taxes), private landowners shouldn’t have to compete with the public and conservation buyers for parcels, acquisition funding might be better spent on land management. 

But Smith concludes by pointing out that only public lands are open for public recreation, that demand for them will grow as population grows, and that they are vital contributors to the state’s $11 billion travel industry. 

He might have added that Minnesota voters probably knew exactly what they were voting for in 2008.  Certainly that seems to be the sentiment in the comments to the article on the Star Tribune website, which ran heavily in support of more public land.  My favorite, entitled simply “Sing It” reads in its entirety: “This land is your land this land is my land!”

Read the entire story here.

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