TAX FAVORITISM for the Nature Conservancy and the big-money land trusts: It is EVEN WORSE than before!

March 1, 2003

By Michael Hardiman

[email protected]

SEE BELOW -- STILL A Bill List TOP PRIORITY -- Democratic Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) and Republican Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) propose huge new benefit for the Nature Conservancy and other "non-profit" land trusts -- at the expense of private property owners, communities and other charities, such as churches, orphanages, private schools and social service centers!

INCREDIBLY, not only does this special interest tax break apply to land sales, it also applies to sales of WATER RIGHTS! For many of you Eastern readers, water rights is probably not a big deal. But water out West is scarce. This tax favoritism will allow a big land trust to gain water rights -- and then make land nearly worthless, so they can scoop that up too, for a bargain price.

GOOD NEWS: The Senate is hearing you, and the Big Green Land Trusts are worried! The Land Trust Alliance, a coalition of the multimillion and billion dollar asset land trusts, sent out a warning that property rights activists are lighting a fire under the Senate! They are concerned that their special interest tax break, stuck into the Faith-Based Initiative, of all things, may be in trouble!

KEEP UP THE NOISE! CONTACT your Senator, no matter who it is! Full-bore effort to the entire Senate!


Here is the Bill List for the 108th Congress, which began in January of 2003. All legislation that was not signed into law by the end of last year is dead, and must start all over again, beginning with the bill being introduced in this new Congress. As we proceed through the next two years, updates, additions, deletions and adjustments of various kinds will be made to the Bill List. First are top priority bills -- legislation which is moving now and where action is required. Then the entire list follows. You are encouraged to THANK the sponsors of the good bills and try to "re-educate" sponsors of the bad bills -- especially if you live anywhere in the sponsor's home state. ALSO, tell your Congressmen and Senators about the legislation that you support and oppose. *** TOP PRIORITY ALERT *** TERRIBLE LEGISLATION - TAX FAVORITISM for the Nature Conservancy and other land trusts! S.256, Sections 106 and 107!

Here is the FIRST bill out of the chute that is moving in Congress that impacts private property rights. It has ALREADY been approved by the Senate Finance Committee, on February 5! It is a 25% tax cut on capital gains of land sales -- but only if the land is sold to an environmental group or to a government agency! Private parties, or non-environmentalist charities such as churches, orphanages, private schools and social service centers are left in the dust! AND it includes sales of WATER RIGHTS!

This would hand over to the Nature Conservancy and other already wealthy land trusts, a nearly insurmountable advantage of up to 25% when competing with private purchasers for property. It would be devastating to family businesses attempting to keep property in private hands through sale to relatives. It will take more land off the tax rolls, damaging the tax base of rural communities in public lands dominated regions of the country. And this proposed tax advantage does not apply to churches, orphanages, private schools, social service centers or other non-profit charities when purchasing land! ONLY land trusts and government agencies!

WORST OF ALL -- even though it is technically a tax break for the SELLER of the land, all it will benefit is the BUYER, if the buyer is a land trust! HERE is why: the land trusts can and will reduce their offers for land purchase. They will have up to a 25% advantage when bidding versus private parties, because of the tax benefit to the seller. So the seller will get a smaller sale price, reducing his tax benefit, while the land trust spends less money. AND that is assuming that there is even a private bidder, once the Big Green Machine has worked over the landowner with threats from the Endangered Species Act and other laws.

HERE IT IS: Incredibly, this is part of the Faith-Based Initiative legislation heading through Congress. So a bill designed to help charities to help people has quietly had this provision tacked onto it by multibillion dollar land trusts for their own selfish benefit! The land trusts prefer to work in the dark, behind closed doors, where they can shut out the general public and work over Senators with their big-gun lobbying operations.

ACTION ITEM - SHINE THE LIGHT on this attack on private property rights AND water rights, and this hijacking of the Faith Based Initiative. S.256, Sections 106 and 107 -- "The CARE Act of 2003" -- the entire bill deals with a variety of tax deductions, it is Sections 106 and 107 of S.256 which has the free hand out for the Nature Conservancy. TELL your Senator and Congressmen to take out Sections 106 and 107 from S.256! Defend private property rights -- land trusts should not get special tax breaks that churches, orphanages, private schools and social service centers DO NOT get in the "Faith Based Initiative!"



HR 51 (Cox, R-CA), HR 57 (Dunn, R-WA) - the bills differ slightly, but both propose permanent repeal of the estate tax, also known as the Death Tax. The Death Tax is a major factor in breaking up family businesses. The Nature Conservancy and the other multibillion dollar land trusts just love the Death Tax, because it allows them to hover like buzzards over family ranches and farms. They dangle conservation easement tax breaks in front of families when they have their backs against the wall financially, due to owing the Death Tax because of a death in the family. Think twice, and look very carefully at the fine print before making a land trust a co-owner of your land! Senate companion bills are S 96, S 169.

HR 67 (Flake, R-AZ) - Disaster Area Exemption Act. Temporarily exempts federally declared disaster areas from the endless environmental regulations and appeals which hold up aid for families and cleanup.

HR 353 (Duncan, R - TN) Dispose of all Bureau of Land Management lands recommended for sale back to private property by the Department of the Interior.

HR 460 (Hayworth, R-AZ) - Study the prevention of wildfires. Senate companion is S 32. Senate:

HR 701 (Paul, R-TX) Will restore to the original owners certain lands that were seized by the federal government in 1940 for military use, and not returned even though they have not been used by the feds for many years. NOTE: You may recall that HR 701 was, in the previous two congresses, previously the bill number of the "CARA" multi-Billion dollar land grab bill. Now in the 108th Congress, thanks to Ron Paul, it stands for citizens getting their land back!


S 32 (Kyl, R-AZ) - Study the prevention of wildfires. House companion is HR 460.

S 96, S 169 (both Kyl, R-AZ)- The bills differ slightly, but both propose permanent repeal of the estate tax, also known as the Death Tax. House companion bills are HR 51, HR 57. Death should NOT be a taxable event!

S 369 (Thomas, R-WY) Endangered Species Act revisions. Will add a greater role for the states and require more thorough biological evidence of a species being endangered before it can be claimed as endangered.



HR 37 (Boehlert R-NY) - Elevate the Environmental Protection Agency to Cabinet status. This bill rewards bad behavior! It elevates the EPA when the EPA dedicates far more effort to protecting its power than protecting the environment.

HR 524 - "Crossroads of the Revolution" National Heritage Area - Land Grab extending across much of central and northern New Jersey.

*****HR 652 (Andrews D-NJ) - To make the Wildlands Project into official government policy - the politically correct name is National Forest Ecosystem Protection Program. Ruin communities in small towns and rural areas through federal land use regulation.


S. 256, Sections 106 and 107 - special interest tax break for the Nature Conservancy and other wealthy land trusts.

S. 230 (Corzine D-NJ) same as HR 524, Heritage Area Land Grab.


Editor's note: Mike Hardiman was Policy Director for Congressman, now Resources Committee Chairman, Richard Pombo from 1993 to 1999. He is President of Hardiman Consulting, a lobbying and public relations firm based in Washington, DC. He is one of the most knowledgeable and effective lobbyists in Washington on property rights and resource use issues. He can be reached at [email protected].