In early April, ORLT Executive Director Peggy Horner headed to Washington D.C. for 2.5 days with 35 other land trusts to meet with our Congressmen to discuss important legislation regarding land conservation.
Since the ORLT mission covers all the Ozarks, she met with members from both Missouri and Arkansas.
“I tried to meet with all of them,” Peggy said. “But that would be four Senators and 12 Representatives! Scheduling 16 meetings in two days with busy congressmen is just not possible.”
She was able to personally meet Senators Roy Blunt (MO) and John Boozeman (AR), as well as Representatives Vickie Hartzler (MO-District 4) and Bruce Westerman (AR-District 4). She also met with the staff of five other Congressmen.
“It was a great experience,” she said. “I was very appreciative to have met so many of our Congressmen. Because of our large area, I think I was the busiest person during the Land Trust Advocacy Days event. I must have walked 10 miles between all those buildings!”
The event is hosted by the national Land Trust Alliance every year, and ORLT routinely sends 1-2 staff or board members most years. “This is just some of the important work we do to ensure we can continue to conserve land and the Ozarks.”
Call To Action! You Can Make A Difference!
One of the most significant tools Ozark Regional Land Trust uses to conserve the Ozarks is a donated conservation easement with a private landowner. These landowners are generously and permanently giving up some development rights on their property to provide a public benefit. The federal government has authorized and awarded this generosity by allowing these landowners to take a federal IRS income tax deduction on the value to this gift. Some landowners might not be able to conserve their land if it wasn’t for this incentive. It’s a very important conservation tool.
But now there are ‘bad actors’ who have found a way to take advantage of this tax deduction and make a profit from what was intended to be a charitable donation.
Some for-profit companies are enticing investors to buy a property, put it under a conservation easement, then split the tax deduction. The problem is that they inflate the value of the land and the conservation easement — sometimes 9 times the true value — so these transactions become tax shelters for the wealthy.
Congress, the Justice Department, and the IRS are all investigating these questionable transactions — and land trusts are very concerned that the tax deduction incentive might be overturned for everyone. This would be devastating to most private landowners who truly seek to conserve their land.
How You Can Help
Both the Senate and House have introduced legislation called the “Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act” (SB 170/HR 1992) to stop these transactions. Please contact your Senators and US. District Representative and ask them to support these bills.
If you are in Representative Vickie Hartzler’s District 4 — please call her and THANK her for co-sponsoring and supporting HR 1992. We appreciate her taking the lead on this important legislation!
To learn more about this issue and talking points, go to https://www.landtrustalliance.org/s170 or contact Peggy at [email protected]
You’re Invited to a Float Trip on Huzzah Creek
Please join us for ORLT’s 35th Annual Meeting at Huzzah Valley Resort in Steelville, MO on Saturday, May 4. The Event starts at 9:30 to 12:00 to learn about ORLT new projects and updates and a presentation by Steve Harrington of the Nature Conservancy. He will be talking about management actions that landowners have completed on the Huzzah. After lunch (provided), the float trip will depart at 1:15. It will be an easy, guided float — passing by lands protected by ORLT.
The meeting and lunch are free, and we request you RSVP by May 2nd. A rental fee is required for kayak or canoe. More information can be found on our website www.orlt.org/events/ and reservations can be made by contacting Kathy Lee ([email protected] or 573-817-2020).
Check Us Out On Facebook!
What’s happening in your neck of the woods? Let us know on our Facebook page! You can find us here: https://www.facebook.com/OzarkRegionalLandTrust/
If you have photos from the Ozarks that you want to share with us (and possibly have shared on Facebook), submit them here using this form: https://goo.gl/forms/3rgET9qtM90Yyyr33/.
The work we’ve been doing for the past 35 years has helped ensure the land we manage will be conserved forever. In order to do this, we need to work now. The cost to conserve nature is going up. Securing lands from being developed and restoring damaged forests and prairies takes more money now than it did when we first started. It is more expensive to make sure our water systems are free from pollution and our public trails can be properly maintained for public access. Consider a one-time or recurring donation to Ozark Regional Land Trust and help leave better, healthier land for future generations.