Resources First Foundation connects people to conservation through the Private Landowner Network, an extensive online database of conservation resources and information.  Resources First Foundation engages with and educates farmers, forest owners, and ranchers throughout the U.S. to inspire sustainable business and conservation practices. By supporting private landowners, who are the best and most efficient stewards of our country's land, you will help play a role in conservation and natural resource protection.

Bad for the Birds, Bad for All of Us
CRP tour in Missouri. Photo credit: FSA.

Last week, John W. Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, and George Fenwick, president of the American Bird Conservancy, wrote in the Washington Post of the declining bird populations across America's grasslands. Many species that were once common across the region have been dramatically reduced, largely due to habitat loss. The Eastern Meadowlark and Henslow's Sparrow populations have fallen by 70 and 95 percent respectively in the the last four decades.

One bright spot has been the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which pays landowners to let their cropland go fallow and then helps them convert it to healthy grassland or wetland habitat. Unfortunately, the uncertain future of the farm bill, which funds CRP, leaves the program's conservation gains at risk.

Read the Full Article

Additionally, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced recently the results of the 45th Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) general sign-up. This year, the USDA will accept approximately 1.7 million acres for the program, of the approximately 1.9 million acres offered by almost 28,000 landowners.

However, while the USDA Press Release sounded a positive note, this actually represents not only a decline from the number of acres enrolled last year, but a decline in total acreage from 26.9 million acres to 25.4 million, as approximately 3.3 million acres are scheduled to leave the program. Acres enrolled also declined last year from just over 29 million to their current state.

This is unfortunate news, as CRP lands provide vital wildlife habitat and are also instrumental in mitigating soil erosion and water pollution. The decline is likely due to rising crop prices and soaring property values that make the CRP monetary incentives less attractive.

More on CRP Enrollment

Western Watershed Enhancement Partnership

Photo credit: Jay Boykin, US Forest Service.

The newly formed Western Watershed Enhancement Partnership (WWEP) joins federal, local, and private landowners to reduce the risk of wildfire and its impact on water supplies in the West. According to USDA Secretary Vilsack, “[t]his partnership will increase forest resilience, improve water quality, and reduce the risk of catastrophic damage from wildfire. This is good news for anyone who pays a water bill, and it is good news for the environment.” 

Fire threat reduction and restoration efforts will include: forest thinning, prescribed fire and other forest health treatments, minimizing post-wildfire erosion and sedimentation, restoring areas that are currently recovering from past wildfires through tree planting, and other habitat improvements. 

This couldn't have come at a better time, as our country is facing some of the most dangerous and destructive wildfires in history. The buildup of underbrush from years of fire suppression only adds to the amount of ash that is deposited into our nation's drinking water and the degradation of valuable wildlife habitat. 
WWEP Press Release

Preserving Tax Deductions for Conservation Easements

House Representative Jim Gerlach, of Pennsylvania’s sixth district, last week referred the Conservation Easement Incentive Act of 2013 (H.R. 2807) to the House Ways and Means Committee, of which he is a member.

Gerlach wants to make permanent the federal tax deductions for land conservation donations for individuals and corporations that are set to expire at the end of this year. The bill is almost identical to the Rural Heritage Conservation Extension Act of 2013 (S. 526), which was referred to the Senate Finance Committee in March by Senators Baucus and Hatch.

More on the Conservation Easement Incentive Act

Make an Estate Plan and Save Your Land!

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Even though it may be difficult to see the day when you are no longer working your land, it is incredibly important to plan for it. Estate planning for farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners is unique. It includes not only developing a strategy for how to pass your family business down (succession planning), but also how to keep your land whole and cared for. In addition, you must consider the needs and abilities of your family members, sometimes including them in the process.  
According to Joseph Astrachan, Ph.D., editor of the Family Business Review, “[m]ore than 30% of all family-owned businesses survive into the second generation. Twelve percent will still be viable into the third generation, with 3% of all family businesses operating at the fourth-generation level and beyond.” Without a good estate plan, the threat of your family farm, forest, or ranch not surviving to the next generation increases dramatically. 
Working landscapes tend to be land rich and cash poor. This raises a lot of estate planning problems, such as how to pay estate taxes and how to compensate multiple heirs or heirs that do not wish to participate in the family business. In order to ensure that your family farm, ranch, or forest does not get sold and divided for development, go to the Conservation Tax Center to learn about different estate and succession planning strategies. 
CTC: Estate Planning Overview

Help Preserve Vital Resources and Rural Communities Today!

Maintain your own PLN Profile

Service providers that are listed on the PLN can now update and maintain their own listings. If you are interested in creating a free listing, updating your current listing, or have questions about this important feature click here!

RFF Membership

Become a member of RFF and its PLN and show your support for farmers, forest owners, and ranchers.

To help private landowners, who are stewards of 71% of our country’s land, and learn about membership benefits click here.

Our Newest Member: Michael Fogarty

Mr. Fogarty is a certified independent earth scientist from Canaan, New Hampshire, whose motto is to always have "a balance of all things." This is demonstrated by his management of the surface and mineral estate of 8,500 acres in Louisiana for hunting, trapping, agriculture, and conservation. Thank you for your support Mr. Fogarty!

Have Your Business's Name and Logo Displayed Here!

Please contact Christine Force if you would like to appear in next month's issue or are interested in learning about sponsorship opportunities.

RFF 2013 Investor Report

InvestorReport (289KB PDF)

Affiliated Sites

Conservation Tax Center

Cooperative Conservation America

Maine Conservation Center

Houston Conservation Center

California Conservation Center

Mississippi Conservation Center

Arkansas Conservation Center

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