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December 2012 Newsletter
Many of this newsletter’s readers are thoroughly familiar with our Resources First Foundation and Private Landowner Network commitment to “Keep Working Lands Working.” They know how we’re making this happen locally and at landscape and national scale. That’s because so many of our subscribers subscribe because they’ve been working closely with us to add their own and other listings to our database. Over the past decade, these individuals have helped us build what has become the largest and most comprehensive platform of incentives for landowners and businesses striving to strengthen the environment. We provide the only platform which hosts federal, state, and local agencies and programs; non-profit organizations dealing with conservation and the environment; and the full range of private-sector businesses which serve the conservation, land management and estate planning needs of private landowners.

For those of you who haven’t yet been part of building our PLN database:

First I invite you to contribute your own profile – or update your profile if we’ve already listed you. Simply visit any page on If you’re not already listed, click on Add Me to PLN Add Me to PLN. Just be sure to include pertinent details in your listing information. Although we reserve the right to edit your listing, there’s no space limit on your listing. Also, we may contact you to ask for further information.

Second, a word about process. We’ve started research work to create the Louisiana Conservation Center to join our existing regional sites: Arkansas, California, Maine, Mississippi and the Houston region. The process starts with requests from a state. Currently we have requests from a score of states including Idaho, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming. We’re very busy raising the hundreds of thousands of dollars required for building each new state database.

Once the necessary funds have been secured, as in the case of Louisiana, our research team works with a broad spectrum of local, state and national organizations and individuals to build a custom-tailored database to serve the specific needs of each state’s landowners.

Third, while our unique service remains free to private landowners, our growing portfolio of web-based resources is increasingly expensive to maintain. So please visit our donation page to either renew your support or make your first-time donation to expand conservation on private lands in ways which directly benefit landowners, the public, the environment and the U.S. economy.

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A Tuning Fork for Conservation
In early November, Resources First Foundation President Amos Eno told a Simsbury Land Trust audience that conservation policy is overdue for realignment. He warned that “public funds for the long cherished environmental agenda of public land acquisition are running out at both the federal and state levels.” He explained that the only effective response is a wholesale realignment to re-focus conservation on private landowners – the largely unpaid and too often maligned stewards of over 71% of the lower 48 states.

As part of the needed realignment, Amos called for:

  • “a Marshal plan for our federal domestic conservation infrastructure . . . let us fix our existing investment portfolio of conservation lands.”
  • “a national policy . . . to facilitate intergenerational transfer of working landscapes . . . approve the Gerlach-Thompson bill pending in the House [and its Baucus-Grassley counterpart in the Senate, to extend tax deductions for conservation easements] and eliminate the estate tax.”

Read a summary of the Simsbury speech here. Or read the full 17-page “Tuning Fork for Conservation” speech. (690 KB PDF) Or watch the complete 54-minute video.

The Age Cliff Facing Private Landowners

A growing threat to working lands is that the average age of farmers, ranchers and forest owners continues to climb, with only words not action to stem the tide. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack zeroed in on the age issue at Drake University Law School’s 2012 Forum on America’s New Farmers. He warned that “We have an aging farming population. If left unchecked, this could threaten our ability to produce the food we need – and also result in the loss of tens of thousands of acres of working lands that we rely on to clean our air and water.”

The trend is clear: USDA surveys show that for the 2002-2007 period, farm operator numbers were up 22% for those 65 and older while the count for operators under 45 dropped 14%. The remedy is equally clear: re-focus farm programs to make agriculture a more popular career choice. Read more here.

The Answer to the Landowner Age Cliff – Conservation Action!

Making sure our forests, farms and ranches survive their aging owners demands innovative, entrepreneurial action, not empty promises. Among those fighting the aging trend, the Pinchot Institute has launched a major “Forest Health-Human Health Initiative” designed to deal with the fact that “nearly 6,000 acres of forest and open space are converted to other uses in America each day.” Without urgent action, the Institute warns, “Over the next 20 years, an area of forest larger than the entire state of Idaho (57 million acres) is expected to be at a very high risk of being lost to development as it transitions in ownership to a new generation of landowners.”

RFF has responded to the aging challenge with a holistic approach based on empowering all landowners, from the largest to the smallest, from the youngest to the oldest. Put the proper information in their hands, in eminently user-friendly form. Unleash the entrepreneurial genius which flourishes in the rich soil of our free enterprise system. Central to this holistic approach is providing landowners ready access to comprehensive legal resources. So the RFF portfolio includes the Conservation Tax Center which houses informative articles along with links to more than 1,500 attorneys skilled in handling tax and estate planning issues.

The Gerlach-Thompson bill and its Senate counterpart, S. 339, the Rural Heritage Conservation Extension Act sponsored by Senators Baucus and Grassley  along with a bipartisan list of 24 co-sponsors, would provide family farmers, ranchers, and other moderate-income landowners with a permanent tax-saving incentive to relinquish the development rights to their land in order to promote land and resource conservation. The conservation easement provisions must be made permanent rather than left subject to the whims and partisan skirmishes of each passing Congress. Read more here.

Spreading the Word – and Irrigation

As just one example among thousands, last month we added new listings to our national and state PLN directories for 245 equipment dealers across the country who supply the innovative, water-use-maximizing irrigation systems manufactured by Reinke Manufacturing in Nebraska. We’re proud to be associated with and support Reinke – a true American success story:

“In this day and age, you don't often find a worldwide industry leader operating in the same place as when it was founded. But that’s the way it is with Reinke. We’re still in Deshler, Nebraska, the original location established by founder Richard Reinke in 1954. We choose to remain in Deshler – America’s heartland – close to our roots and our customers because that’s who we are. We live and work among the growers of this country and our dealers live and work among the growers of countries all over the world. We’re a global leader in irrigation products, but we’re a hometown business at heart.”

Hometown – and constantly innovating. Check out Reinke’s latest Swing Arm Corner System which irrigates 318' x 408' with uniform application of water and chemicals, eliminating waste ground between circles.
USDA Promotes Private Lands Conservation

Federal conservation policy hasn’t moved fast enough or far enough on shifting the focus from public lands to private farms, ranches and forests. But there’s definitely measurable movement in the right direction. Consider USDA’s recent gains for the 2009-2011 period:

  • Enrolled a record number of acres of private working lands in conservation programs, working with more than 500,000 farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices that clean the air we breathe, filter the water we drink and prevent soil erosion.”

  • Enrolled more than eight million acres of private working lands on nearly 120,000 farms into the Conservation Reserve Program.”

  • In California alone, USDA partnered with landowners to install nearly 500 projects that are estimated to reduce emissions equivalent to taking more than 400,000 vehicles off the road.”

  • USDA has enrolled more than 720,000 acres on private working lands specifically to protect habitats for ducks, pheasants, quails and other birds.”

  • Launched Sage Grouse and Lesser Prairie Chicken initiatives to proactively work with farmers and ranchers to conserve the habitat of these rare birds while providing assurances to landowners that they can continue to manage their lands even if the birds are added to the endangered species list.”

  • Ranchers implemented a grazing system on over 1.3 million acres to increase hiding cover for nesting birds.”

  • USDA is preparing new greenhouse gas estimation guidelines for farmers, ranchers, and rural land owners. The tools will assess greenhouse gas reductions and carbon sequestration from conservation, land management activities, and tree planting, and help farmers earn revenue for their work to help the environment.”

  • USDA is “supporting large-scale demonstration of new approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote carbon sequestration on private lands.”

Read a longer list of how much USDA has done in working with private landowners and creating new income opportunities for working lands here.

Kudos to Private Sector Research
Meeting growing global demand for food, fiber, and biofuel requires robust investment in agricultural research and development (R&D) from both public and private sectors. That’s according to a just-released study from USDA’s Economic Research Service which examines global R&D spending by private industry in seven agricultural input sectors, food manufacturing, and biofuel and describes the changing structure of these industries. In 2007 (the latest year for which comprehensive estimates are available), the private sector spent $19.7 billion on food and agricultural research (56% in food manufacturing and 44% in agricultural input sectors) and accounted for about half of total public and private spending on food and agricultural R&D in high-income countries.

At a time when more federal budget cuts are likely, the ERS report concludes that “Growth in the productivity of the global food and agricultural system will be largely determined by today’s investments in research and development.” Read a summary here, or download the full 34-page report.

Targeting Your Tax-Deductible Donations
With federal and state conservation funding slashed and even more cuts planned, it takes passion and hard cash to accelerate conservation efforts nationally and at state level. To narrow the ever-wider funding gap which limits our conservation efforts – and to specify whether you’re contributing to the overall PLN initiative or to a specific project of your choice – please visit our donation page where you can customize your tax-deductible donation to Resources First Foundation, a 501(c)(3) conservation nonprofit. Help us provide the tools which private landowners and a growing array of public and private conservation organizations use on a daily basis to protect more land and natural resources with conservation easements and to achieve other on-the-ground conservation victories.

We Invite Your Input & Insights
To contribute items for our national conservation database or offer your comments, please email: We welcome your participation in expanding our information resources and we're especially seeking success stories about farmers, ranchers and forest owners who are actively engaged in “keeping working lands working.”

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