Delegation brings funds for open space
Sunday, February 14, 2016
BY LYNN MELLIS WORTHINGTON Republican-American
KENT — There are some topics that all three of the town's federal legislators can rally around, and land conservation is one of them.
U.S. Rep. Elizabeth H. Esty of the 5th District, and Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Christopher S. Murphy, all Democrats, came together Saturday to visit the town and celebrate recent legislative victories.
Murphy highlighted the bipartisan nature of the legislation that was passed in December 2015 that will make permanent the federal tax credit for conservation easement donations for land owners.
It is an important topic in Litchfield County for towns that have many second homeowners who own large tracts of land, and work with land trusts to preserve and protect the land from development.
The event was sponsored by Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust, but many of the nearby land trusts also were co-sponsors and participants in the event.
"We sat down with Republicans who wanted there to be a lifting of the ban on export of crude oil. We believe, in the balance, the benefit to the environment greatly outweighs any potential harm," Murphy said. "It is an example of something that doesn't happen in Washington often enough, with both sides sitting down, and ultimately getting a deal that is better for the country and the betterment of the environment."
He said there is also more money coming from the federal government through the Highlands program to conserve land.
"It presents us with some amazing opportunities that we need to take advantage of," Murphy said.
Blumenthal called the tax bill a great victory. He said Kent Land Trust President Bill Arnold had been working tirelessly for the past 10 years to stress the need for the tax credit to be permanent because it is such an important tool for land trusts in working with land owners to encourage land protection.
Blumenthal said he is not done with seeking permanent tax credits. The solar and wind tax credits need to be made permanent beyond the current five years in the legislation, he said. He'd also like to see the funding for the land and water conservation trust be made permanent.
Esty said the bill's passage points out the need for "slow and careful work," and she credited many of those connected to land trusts in the room with providing her the necessary background information to make her arguments with fellow congressmen.
"Most members of Congress are real patriots," she said, adding that she makes her case to them that issues such as conservation easement tax credits are good for all. "That's why this prevailed."
Esty cited other successes that didn't grab headlines but will make a difference for the environment, such as requiring native plantings along millions of miles of highways that will encourage pollinators.
Weantinogue Executive Director Catherine Rawson said she was pleased by the turnout on Saturday.
"This is such a local issue," Rawson said. "One person can absolutely make a difference."
Each of the participating land trusts and conservation groups had booths with literature at the event. Those attending included the Kent Land Trust, Litchfield Land Trust, Steep Rock Land Trust, Goshen Land Trust, Roxbury Land Trust, Warren Land Trust, Flanders Nature Center and Land Trust, Watertown Land Trust, Sharon Land Trust and Naromi Land Trust.
Also represented was the HVA, Connecticut Farmland Trust, Connecticut Land Conservation Council, Litchfield Hills Greenprint Collaborative, Rivers Alliance of Connecticut, and the Connecticut Forest and Park Association.