A Win for Wildlife

By author of The Duck Blog

Recent Omnibus Bill Includes Key Legislation of Hunters and Fishermen

It’s easy to get frustrated with America’s corporate policies and tax breaks when it comes to groups like Big Oil or the retail giants. Our elected officials, with their back-room politics and undisclosed sources of funding, don’t make it any easier to stay positive. But, in contrast, we recently had reason to pause, step back, and applaud the thinking of the administration.

By signing the 2016 Omnibus Bill, President Obama put some very important conservation legislation into action. The bill included several key conservation agendas, but, possibly most important, were the tax breaks given to conservation easements.

Not unlike many incentives given to corporate America in the last two decades, the Enhanced Conservation Easement Incentive finally goes to wildlife, rather than corporate greed. But the real aspect worth noting is the permanency of the new program.

To avoid confusion, let’s back up a bit.

A conservation easement is, in our example, a tract of land given to the government by a private individual that allows the government to manage it for what it deems are the best conservation purposes. The landowner then receives a tax credit.

For individuals across America who own a bunch of land, perhaps not using it for any profitable measure but still paying taxes, the program is a win-win. However, in year’s past, bills that gave major tax breaks expired periodically.

The results were major donations of land (up to 1 million acres a year) during tax-break periods, but then dwindling donations once incentives expired.The new Omnibus Bill will end that, making such donation benefits permanent. 

Not unusual, one of the key champions of this legislation was Michigan senator Debbie Stabenow. Stabenow seems to be behind nearly very piece of important environmental legislation to hit the White House, especially those concerning migrating waterfowl.

In addition to the easement program, the recent Omnibus Bill should greatly assist one of America’s favorite recreational fisheries: Gulf Coast snapper. In recent times, states along the Gulf have been at odds with the federal government and the management of snapper stocks. New legislation, championed by Alabama Senator Richard Shelby, will give states more management powers, as well as include vastly more programs designed for study and assessment of the snapper fishery throughout the region.

red snapper

One final key piece of passed legislation within the Omnibus Bill includes funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Such reauthorization includes an $8 million budget to increase accessibility to public lands for hunters and fishermen. 

Remember, it’s easy to get caught up in the governmental hype, especially in an election year. Ignore the bafoons running for office and do a little research. You may be rewarded with a much needed breath of fresh air.