In an unexpected move last week, Senate Democrats announced a deal on a budget reconciliation package focused on energy and climate. In fact, if passed, it would be the largest ever federal investment in climate action and has the potential to reduce emissions by 40% by 2030. That’s good news for our planet, and the $369 billion dollar bill, titled the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, also is great in many ways for private land conservation and the land trust community.
This post originally ran on Friday, August 5, 2022. It has since been updated.
*UPDATE (August 8, 2022): On Sunday, August 7, the U.S. Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act with funding for the programs noted below intact. The U.S. House is expected to approve the landmark legislation this Friday (August 12) and send it to the desk of President Biden for his signature.
**UPDATE (August 13, 2022): On Friday, August 12, the U.S. House passed the Inflation Reduction Act, sending the legislation to President Biden's desk for signing. The Land Trust Alliance is grateful to Congress for getting the IRA across the finish line and ensuring it includes $20 billion for Farm Bill conservation programs. Find the statement from Andrew Bowman, president and CEO of the Land Trust Alliance, here.
***UPDATE (August 17, 2022): On Tuesday, August 16, President Biden signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act at a White House ceremony. Read more.
The Farm Bill conservation programs would receive unprecedented investment of $20 billion, which would be additional to funding included in the 2018 Farm Bill. This represents a recognition of the essential role land conservation can and should play in addressing climate change. For example, land trusts and the landowners they work with would have access to an additional $1.4 billion for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program to be allocated over four years, and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program would be increased by $4.95 billion over that time period. The Conservation Stewardship Program and Environmental Quality Incentives Program also receive huge investments, $3.25 billion and $8.45 billion, respectively. There is also $1 billion in technical assistance for landowners who use these programs to reduce climate-related emissions. This would be the largest investment in Farm Bill conservation programs to date.
The bill’s emphasis on the importance of voluntary private land conservation is also reflected in proposed investments in other federal programs that would support land trust work, including:
$700 million for the Forest Legacy Program
$1.5 billion for the Urban and Community Forestry program to plant trees in underserved areas
$2.6 billion to NOAA for coastal zone management grants for the conservation, restoration and protection of coastal and marine habitats
$450 million in competitive grants for underserved or small private forest landowners to carry out climate mitigation practices and participate in emerging private markets
$3 billion to EPA for environmental and climate justice block grants to help reduce greenhouse gas pollution and/or mitigate climate risks in disadvantaged communities
The bill has a long way to go before becoming law and the Alliance is weighing in with Congress to underscore the benefits of investing in voluntary private land conservation, both to America’s communities and achieving our nation’s climate goals. Land trusts could amplify their role in reaching climate goals by tapping these new federal resources to implement natural climate solutions, such as avoided conversion and improved forest management. To help get this bill across the finish line, call or email your Senators to voice your support for this crucial investment in Farm Bill conservation programs and other natural climate solutions.