Conserving and protecting working rural lands in the greater Red Hills and Albany regions occasionally takes Tall Timbers staff outside of our beloved focal areas.
Planning and Advocacy Coordinator Neil Fleckenstein recently attended the Land Trust Alliance Advocacy Days event in Washington, D.C. Advocacy Days provides a great opportunity for land trusts around the nation to meet with members of Congress, their staff, and agency leadership to advocate for the U.S. Farm Bill, which is the nation’s single largest source of funding for land conservation and stewardship.
While in Washington, Neil met with program and policy staff from the offices of Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), and Congressional staff from the offices of Representatives Austin Scott (R-GA 8th), Sanford Bishop (D-GA 2nd), and Neal Dunn (R-FL 2nd).
In particular, Neil focused on the following Tall Timbers Farm Bill priorities:
- Establishing a Forest Conservation Easement Program — This would expand the Healthy Forest Reserve Program to conserve working forests using purchase conservation easements that could be held by accredited land trusts like Tall Timbers.
- Improving the efficiency of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) — The RCPP program has great potential to improve conservation outcomes using innovative approaches and partnerships. However, administrative challenges at the federal and sometimes state level have hampered its effectiveness.
- Reforming the Farm bill’s “certified entity” process — This would ensure that accredited land trusts, like Tall Timbers, have a streamlined path to certification, thus improving their ability to hold federally purchased conservation easements.
Another key issue that Neil discussed with Congressional staff and agency leaders was the potential for the EPA’s proposed reduction in the particulate matter 2.5 standard to undermine efforts to get more prescribed fire (good fire) on the ground for wildfire mitigation and improved habitat management. There is wide agreement that more, not less prescribed fire is critical for breaking the cycle of rampant wildfire in the Western United States. Notably, wildfire is a significant source of fine particulate matter like PM2.5.
Tall Timbers staff and our advocacy team in Washington will continue to inform our elected leaders about these important issues, which are vital to conservation and management of working rural lands in the greater Red Hills and Albany regions, and beyond.