Ti Leaf Express is a blog published by the Law Office of Tom Pierce. Our goal is to provide pithy -- and like our namesake, diverse, useful (and sometimes inspirational) -- content in the areas of land conservation, nonprofits, and philanthropy, with a specific focus on Hawaii.
Now is the time to weigh in with your members of Congress and urge them to restore funding for the programs you care about. For specifics, visit the action alert sites of the organizations below who are fighting these cuts:
Ducks Unlimited (working on NAWCA, State Wildlife Grants and other programs)
Environmental Defense Fund (fighting cuts to farm bill conservation programs)
The Nature Conservancy (fighting for a broad suite of programs)
Congressional leaders are currently seeking a compromise between the House’s H.R. 1 (which would cut important conservation programs by 85-100 percent) and more modest cuts favored by Democrats.
A new regulation starts on March 15, 2011 affecting land trusts, governments and landowners that permit public recreation access. The information below is excerpted from the Land Trust Alliance Conservation Defense Network:
The issue troubling land trusts is the expansion of motor vehicles allowed in the new “other power-driven mobility devices” definition. Anything that has a motor, of any size, from motor scooters to large trucks is included. If they say they have a disability and thus need the motor vehicle, you cannot contradict them, unless it’s evident that they are not disabled.
The key to the new regulation is that a land trust, government or landowner cannot stop a vehicle operated by a disabled person from accessing any trail, unless you follow the DOJ assessment and publicize that vehicles are prohibited for one of the several criteria. It’s a matter of publicity, more than trail design. More information.
The National Land Trust Census, a comprehensive profile of the land trust movement and its land protection activities, generally receives considerable media attention and is widely quoted in newspapers and in research and technical journals. The New York Times ran a story about the 2000 Land Trust Census on page B1, with a color picture – and this was on September 12, 2001.About the National Land Trust Census. Here’s more information from Land Trust Alliance: Continue reading
In September 2010, Historic Hawai’i Foundation presented a workshop on preservation of cultural landscapes. The 2-1/2 day seminar included technical training by National Park Service cultural resource experts and guest speakers from across the Hawaiian Islands. Check out the report and other information here.
Check out RC&D’s Highlights for 2010, a sampling below:
Oahu RC&D celebrates a highly productive and successful 2010. Highlights include working with more than 120 farmers to achieve their stewardship goals; providing technical assistance through workshops, field days, and demonstrations; developing a variety of informational materials; awarding more than $250,000 in grants to agricultural operations; and establishing new partnerships with community organizations.
Also, thanks to RC&D for putting on a great conservation easement workshop on Kauai last week.
Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument – Protecting a Vitally Important Marine Ecosystem and Culturally Sacred Place
The Hana Hou magazine also (see our entry from a couple days ago) includes another conservation-related article, called Treasured Islands, discussing the United Nations’ designation of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands as a World Heritage Site. This almost 140,000 square mile swath, northwest of the main islands, is now called Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. Writer Dawn Southard explains:
It’s the most remote part of the most remote archipelago on Earth, the world’s largest environmentally protected area, the last refuge to hundreds of endangered and endemic species, home to the world’s deepest coral species and its northernmost reefs. And it’s one of the Earth’s last best examples of what a healthy marine ecosystem looks like.
Papahanaumokuakea is a wonderful example of science and culture collectively supporting a conservation concept. The world heritage application explained that Papahanaumokuakea is a “mixed site . . . where not only are nature and culture one, but where two seemingly opposite ways of thinking, spiritual and scientific, indigenous and Western – can learn to coexist.” While the new status should earn the area greater world-wide respect, and greater protections, Southard concludes, “The real value of World Heritage status is perhaps in this: that it helps restore a reverence, a sense of the sacredness of place.”
The Dec/Jan Hawaiian Airlines Hana Hou magazine offers a story about David Burney’s archaeological exploration of Makauwahi cave on Kauai. Burney calls the cave a poor man’s time machine. When you dig to the bottom of the cave, you have “traveled back” seven thousand years. But the reason we are writing about Burney and the Makauwahi cave here is this: Writer Julia Steele asked Burney what has been his most important discovery. Burney’s response is yet another reminder that there is no time to wait for environmental protection, including land conservation:
The single most important thing we’ve found is absolute proof that prior to humans there was a really remarkable level of diversity here beyond what anybody had imagined. When we first penetrated down to the layers that no longer had any human artifacts, this whole other world opened up. We realized, “Here’s the smoking pistol.” As soon as the humans are gone, there’s evidence of diverse flora and fauna. For example, as soon as you’re past the rat bones, there are all of these seeds from all kinds of trees. We’ve found thousands of bird bones from forty-five species of birds. Then they give out: people arrive and the birds disappear. And there was a mass extinction here of insects.
Burney has documented three waves of extinction: the first after the Polynesians arrived; the second after they’d been in the islands for some time; the third and most catastrophic after Cook. “You don’t see any extinctions until humans, and then it goes way up,” he says, “and in the last two hundred years, it’s astronomical.”
The question is, “What can we do with this information?”
This short NPR story really isn’t about preserving land. The story is actually about political instability caused by rising food prices. Several things emerge from the interview with Gary Blumenthal, president and chief executive officer of agricultural consulting firm World Perspectives: food shortages are happening throughout the world for a variety of reasons, many weather related, and people in the know are investing in agriculture — not for humanitarian reasons but because it makes business sense. That is a hard one for us to understand here where food is cheap, amounting to nine percent or less of our budget. But how about countries where people must expend 50 or 60 percent of their income on food. Lurking behind all this is the hidden value of agricultural lands.
We previously explained that the enhanced easement incentives were extended through 2011. We’ve just created a page with specifics on the rules, which have been continued on from previous years. Here’s a quick refresher:
By allowing conservation easement donors to deduct up to 50 percent of their income (100 percent for farmers, ranchers and forest landowners) for up to 16 years, the enhanced easement incentive helps modest-income landowners realize a greater tax benefit for their generous donation and has boosted the pace of conservation by about 250,000 acres a year.
Last night the House and Senate passed the tax cut package, and today President Obama signed it into law. Included in the package was the enhanced conservation easement incentives, which will apply retroactively to the beginning of 2010. Therefore, as stated by the Land Trust Alliance: Conservation-minded landowners now have until December 31, 2011 to take advantage of a significant tax deduction for donating a voluntary conservation agreement to permanently protect important natural or historic resources on their land. When landowners donate a conservation easement to a land trust or other qualified public charity, they maintain ownership and management of their land and can sell or pass the land on to their heirs, while foregoing future development rights. The enhanced incentive applies to a landowner’s federal income tax. It:
- Raises the deduction a donor can take for donating a voluntary conservation agreement from 30% of their income in any year to 50%;
- Allows farmers and ranchers to deduct up to 100% of their income; and
- Increases the number of years over which a donor can take deductions from 6 to 16 years.