Federal Policy Issues

Policy Overview

Coalition of Ohio Land Trusts (COLT) work to advance critical state and federal land conservation policy initiatives and legislation, such as property tax reform, and renewal of the Clean Ohio Fund, in partnership with other statewide groups such as Ohio League of Conservation Voters and Mainstream Green Coalition.

 

For detailed information on key federal policy and legislative initiatives and ways to advocate on important issues, visit: www.landtrustalliance.org/policy

Chagrin River in October  Photo provided by: Gates Mills Land Conservancy

Chagrin River in October 
Photo provided by: Gates Mills Land Conservancy

LEGISLATIVE AND POLICY UPDATE

March 2014

 

FEDERAL

Budget and Appropriations:  FY2015 – President Obama introduced his proposed FY2015 federal budget on March 4.  For conservation programs, the president’s budget proposes: 1) $900 million, full and dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund; 2) stabilized funding for wildfire suppression; and, 3) stable or increased funding for North American Wetland Conservation Act (NAWCA), Tribal Wildlife Grant Program, and Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Grant Program.

 

The proposed $275 million, a decrease of $25 million from FY2014, for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) was a disappointment to Ohio’s conservation and environmental groups and to the Ohio Congressional Delegation.  Ohio Congressman David Joyce led a bipartisan sign-on letter from members to the House Appropriations Committee requesting $300 million for GLRI to the House Appropriations Committee.  

 

 

STATE OF OHIO

In an unexpected development Governor Kasich introduced a two-year capital budget bill that moved through the General Assembly in lightning speed (two weeks) and was signed into law on April 1st.  Meanwhile, the Ohio House and Senate continued to work on operating budget review bills (14).

 

FY2015-2016 Biennial Capital Budget Bill – a Victory for Clean Ohio Fund – The Governor introduced the two-year state capital budget on March 18 and it quickly moved through the House and Senate with no amendments. 

 

The bill includes $100 million in bonding for the next two years for the Clean Ohio Fund’s three conservation programs – open space, farmland preservation, and trails. Although the Clean Ohio Coalition was optimistic that funding would be include it is pleased that the funding level is at the maximum allowed by law.  It is clear that the hard work of educating members, working with editorial boards for broad statewide support, and the advocacy and lobbying undertaken by the Coalition with relationship building with members of the General Assembly during the past three years resulted in recognition of  value, contributions and support for the program by the Administration. 

 

Mid-Biennial Budget Review Bill - Governor John Kasich introduced HB 472, mid-biennial budget review bill on March 11.  The 1,600 page piece of legislation contains many complex policy changes to state government.  House Speaker Bill Batchelder announced that the bill would be reorganized as 14 separate bills to manage the legislative process more effectively and efficiently.  The bill does not appear to raise or lower significantly the level of spending approved in the 2014-2015 operating budget that the Governor signed last June.

 

MBR HB 490, which focuses on policy changes affecting the Departments of Agriculture and Natural Resources and Ohio EPA, is before the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and includes several major policy issues that are of interest to the land trust community.  They include:  1) transferring the Agricultural Pollution Abatement Program from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to the Ohio Department of Agriculture; and 2) increasing authority for the Division of Oil and Gas at ODNR to oversee and regulate the shale energy industry. 

 

Nutrient Management:  SB 150 – The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee completed its work on the legislation and it is now before the House Finance Committee.  The bill requires applicators of commercial fertilizer on agricultural lands of 50 acres or larger to be state certified.  It also includes a provision encouraging farmers to develop and implement a nutrient management plan approved by the Ohio Department of Agriculture.  Although viewed as a small step to address nutrient loading in Ohio’s lakes, rivers, and streams to help reduce harmful algal blooms which threaten human and animal health, fisheries, tourism, and recreation, its enactment will provide another tool in combatting the problem.   

 

Shale Energy Development:  The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) released draft rules for horizontal well construction for public comment.  Additional rules on brine disposal, impoundment ponds, spill containment and other drilling mandates are expected to follow during the next several months.   

 

Federal Policy Links

Public Land Conservation Funding

The 2008 Farm Bill and recent appropriations cycles have provided dramatic funding increases for Farm Bill conservation programs, the Land and Water Conservation Fund and other federal conservation programs. Now the America's Great Outdoors Initiative provides a promising opportunity to do even more, but cuts to Farm Bill conservation programs in the FY11 budget show that we must remain vigilant. 
To learn more, click to visit the Land Trust Alliance website. 

Become a Land Trust Advocate

Every year, the federal government makes key decisions on the tax incentives for land or conservation easements; on the rules that 501(c)(3) organizations must follow; on funding for a host of federal and state land protections; and about grant programs that can help you protect lands in your community.

Members of Congress and other public officials rely on their constituents for informed opinions on proposed legislation, policy issues and regulations. The Land Trust Alliance can tell them what the issues are, but only YOU can make them care! Advocates Alerts provide the information you need to make a difference with policymakers.
To learn more, click to visit the Land Trust Alliance website.