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July, 2009
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 ACE Applicaton Round Now Open

Deadline: September 11, 2009
Five spaces remain for Michigan land conservancies interested in applying for the Advancing Conservancy Excellence (ACE) program. ACE provides training, coaching and an advancement grant to help prepare for national accreditation. The ACE program is a partnership project of Heart of the Lakes and the Land Trust Alliance with funding generously provided by The Kresge, The Carls, Charles Stewart Mott, Wege, and Frey Foundations. 

Click Here  for program background, eligibility requirements, and application or contact julie@heartofthelakes.org for more information.

Policy Update

Our Current State Policy Focus:

State
HB 4158 (Mayes D-Bay City): Bill would allow capture of a portion of $12.8 million in property liens owed the state through PA 116 non-renewals to fund permanent farmland preservation. Landowners who choose not to renew their PA 116 agreements are required to pay back the previous seven years of tax benefits. Currently there is no interest penalty to encourage the payback, and thus millions of dollars in liens have accumulated. This bill would provide interest penalties on agreements going forward and offer a discount on existing liens for a brief period to encourage payback. These funds go to the Michigan Agriculture Preservation Fund to provide needed support for permanent farmland preservation, as purchases of development rights under the program have stalled due to lack of funds. Heart of the Lakes supports the proposed legislation and has collaborated with Michigan Department of Agriculture, Michigan Farm Bureau, and Representative Mayes to suggest changes for strengthening the bill, and is meeting with Committee members in both the House and Senate. The bill is expected to be before the House Agriculture Committee following the July recess.

Attorney General Opinion Issued: In 2006, Heart of the Lakes was instrumental in the passage of P.A. 446, exempting transfers of land with conservation easements from a pop-up in property taxes. This legislation has had a huge impact on increasing conservation of private lands across Michigan. What remained unclear, however, was whether a conservation easement not established before death, but rather created by will, would be exempt from a pop-up in property taxes when it transfers to a beneficiary after death.

Heart of the Lakes worked with Senator Michelle McManus to request a Formal Attorney General Opinion in order to answer this question. Attorney General Opinion #7233 was published on June 26, 2009, stating that a conservation easement or qualified conservation donation must be established before death in order to be exempt from a property tax pop-up upon transfer after death. Although the outcome of the opinion is not in the best interest of land conservation, Heart of the Lakes is pleased that an Attorney General Opinion has been published regarding this issue. A.G. Opinions, considered binding law in Michigan, are only drafted when the most important legal questions are presented. Heart of the Lakes is now exploring ways to amend state law so beneficiaries of wills establishing conservation easements may avoid an increase in property taxes.

Federal
HR 1831: Conservation Easement Incentive Act: Legislation introduced to make the enhanced federal tax deduction for qualified conservation easements permanent - incentives that are important for landowners to protect significant natural and working lands but are set to expire December 31, 2009. Spearheaded by the Land Trust Alliance and supported by Heart of the Lakes, the goal is to gain a majority in the U.S. House by securing 218 cosponsors. To date, eight of 15 Michigan representatives have signed on (Ehlers-R, Dingell-D, Hoekstra-R, Kildee-D, McCotter-R, Miller-R, Schauer-D, and Upton-R). Heart of the Lakes is currently reaching out to the remaining Michigan representatives to gain their support.  Click here for more information from the Land Trust Alliance.

Other State Conservation Policy Updates

State Parks
Legislation to support Michigan State Parks was introduced in March to provide for a State park and State-operated public boating access site recreation passport that a Michigan resident could obtain by paying an additional fee when registering a motor vehicle. The original bills included a proposed fee of $5 for motorcycles and $10 for all other vehicles (excluding commercial motor vehicles) with residents having the choice to opt out. Amendments to the bills have changed this to an “opt-in” in which residents would check a box when renewing vehicle registrations to indicate support. Senate bills (SB 388 and SB 389) and House bills (HB 4677 and HB 4678) were reported favorably (with substitutes) out of the Senate Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee and House Great Lakes and Environment Committee, respectively, in early May but have not yet been taken up by the full Senate or House. The Legislature has indicated that movement should not be expected until late August or September in light of larger, overarching budget issues.

Trails
HB 4610 (Moore R - Farwell) SB 578 (Brown R – Fawn River Twp.): Bill would require the DNR to “preserve and facilitate the use of pack and saddle animals (e.g. horses) on all state-owned lands where there is a historical tradition of this use”. In addition, the Natural Resource Commission would be required to establish a network of trailways on all state land by 7/31/09 for use of horses where there was “historical tradition” of horses being used. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a letter to Michigan DNR indicating that passage of this bill would put them in jeopardy of losing $25 million in Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration funds (Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson funds) as a supplement. This legislation does not allow for scientific guidance in individual regions of the state, but rather issues a sweeping statute across the state, allowing pack animals on every trail in the state and putting sensitive habitat in danger of destruction. Heart of the Lakes does not support the bills because, among other reasons, it would set a bad precedent for public policy.

Agriculture & Forestry
HB 4887 (Mayes D – Bay City) would allow a variety of renewable energy systems (e.g., biomass, wind, solar, geothermal, landfill gas, and other systems that generate electricity – not including an incinerator) to qualify as a “permitted use” of farmland covered by an easement or agreement designed to preserve it as farmland or open space. This bill passed
(105 - 3) through the House on June 9, and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Bioeconomy.

SB 599, 600, 601, 602, 603: A package of bills was introduced in the State Senate in May, largely dealing with proposed transference of forest management from the DNR to the Department of Agriculture. The bills were referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Bioeconomy. Heart of the Lakes is looking into this package of bills for implications for land conservation.

Conveyance of state property to private use
HB 5058 (Sheltrown D – West Branch) would require the DNR to convey over 475 acres of state-owned forest property in Oscoda Township, Iosco County to Boyd and Loretta Aldridge at fair market value for construction of a golf course that replicates St. Andrews golf course in Scotland. The bill passed the House with one vote over the required 2/3 majority (74-35 ) on June 25 and has been transferred to the Senate with no committee yet assigned. The bill would set bad precedent by further opening the door to other public land grabs to serve narrow, private economic interests.

 

Other Federal Conservation Policy Updates

American Clean Energy and Security Act: Late on June 26, in a 219-212 vote, the House passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act, a bill to cap greenhouse gas emissions and transform the nation's energy supply. The bill aims to reduce emissions 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83% by 2050. Included in that legislation was a provision allocating major revenues to a "natural resources climate change adaptation fund”- essentially, funding to help state and federal agencies create and implement plans to protect natural resources from climate change.  A portion of that funding would also be used to increase funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. While these funds will not go to conservancy protected lands, it should be noted that Congressman Dingell recognized the importance.
 

Conservancies in the News

Transitions

Randall Rood has been selected as Chikaming Open Lands’ first Executive Director. Rood was formerly the Parks Director for Berrien County Parks.

Employment Opportunities

No listings this month

Events and Training

Advancing Conservancy Excellence
Friday, September 11, 2009, 10:00 – 11:00 am      
Ask An Attorney Conference Call featuring Scott Howard of Olson, Bzdok & Howard, P.C. “Liability for Publically Accessible Lands” will explore liability issues for conservancies that invite the public to visit their properties and/or engage volunteers in stewardship work on nature preserves. Save the date, registration opens in August.

Heart of the Lakes Center for Land Conservation Policy
November 10, 2009
Annual Summit—Save the date and watch for registration information

Land Trust Alliance
October 11-14, 2009
Land Trust Alliance Rally

Land Trust Alliance (On-Line)
July 25, 3:00 pm        
Demystifying the Accreditation Process (no charge)   

August, 19, 2009, 2:00-3:30 pm
Fundraising in Tough Economic Times ($50 per connection)   

August 26, 2009, 2:00-3:30 pm
Climate Change and Land Trusts ($50 per connection)

September 10, 17, 24 and October 1, 2009, 2:00 pm
Drafting Easements for Perpetuity (Curriculum Topic In-Depth, $150 for Land Trust Alliance members/Others $299 for up to two participants)               


Other Training Opportunities:
Board Connect, Michigan Nonprofit Association

 

 
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In This Issue:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Save the Date!
2009 Heart of the Lakes Annual Summit
 
Tuesday,
November 10, 2009
Lansing Center, Lansing
 
Event Includes:
Workshops for conservancies
State and Federal
policy updates
Luncheon with legislators
Networking reception
 
Keynote address:
“Land Conservancies and Great Lakes Watershed Restoration,”  presented by G. Tracy Mehan III 

Heart of the Lakes Center for Land Conservation Policy

300 N. Bridge Street, Grand Ledge, MI 48837  |  517.925.8649  |  www.heartofthelakes.org




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Heart of the Lakes Center for Land Conservation Policy
300 N. Bridge Street
Grand Ledge, MI 48837

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