This destructive practice has go on for far to long. Finally some much needed scrutiny and review is taking place.
Tax incentives as conservation tools
One of the most important tools for conservation is the tax deduction available for land owners who donate the value of conservation easements that permanently protect protect their land under that conservation easement.
The deduction is set to expire at the end of the year.
The Conservation Easement Incentive Act
On March 31, Representatives Thompson (D-CA) and Cantor (R-VA) introduced the Conservation Easement Incentive Act, H.R. 1831, making this valuable conservation tool permanent.
Donating a conservation easement is a big financial decision for many landowners. Under current law conservation easement donors can:
• Deduct up to 50% of their adjusted gross income in any year;
• Deduct up to 100% of their adjusted gross income if the majority of that income came from farming, ranching or forestry; and
• Continue to take deductions for as long as 16 years.
Making the conservation easement incentive permanent will help working lands stay working lands and provide important conservation benefits for everyone.
Two weeks ago, I had a chance to spend some time at the Western Virginia Sports Show. Mark Hanger, the producer and owner of the show impressed me with his commitment to conservation and getting families interested in the great outdoors.
When I caught up with Hanger at the show I asked him how the attendance was. He told me it was better than they expected given the economy, then he made an interesting observation.
“The only thing we can point to is they want to be happy for a while, they don’t want to hear any bad news. They want to be enlightened, entertained and come out and spend some time with their family at a reasonable cost and have some good entertainment,” he said.
In his show brochure Hanger said “on your next trip, take a young person with you and teach them to love, respect and enjoy God’s great outdoors.”
I asked him about getting kids into the outdoors.
“There is no doubt about it that that is the most important because it is our future. If we don’t get children in the outdoors, then our sports are going to diminish and be gone forever,” he said.
Hanger pointed out a number of educational elements at the show including the Bucks, Bows and Does, Outdoor Adventure archery education trailer and the show’s wild game display.
A great example of getting kids engaged in the outdoors was the Orange County High School Anglers Club. They are a 4-H and Junior B.A.S.S. Federation Nation club.
The club is made up of students ages 11 to 19 who love to bass fish competitively.
I spoke with Becky Gore, the club’s advisor. Gore is a teacher and a former coach. She is the power house behind the club and a joy to talk with. If every school in the Valley can find a Becky Gore, then fishing will have a very bright future.
Gore told me how she got the club started.
“In 1999, about ten years after my husband had died, I had just gotten my kids in college. I decided I wanted to start fishing again, so I went to the high school principal and said I would like to start a fishing club and she said ‘sure, go for it,’ ” Gore said. “We have three entities, we were first 4-H and the high school together, and then the B.A.S.S. Federation found out about me and they were trying to implement a youth program in Virginia. They called me up and asked me if would I be interested. I asked what they could do for my kids. They said they could advance to a world level. I said ‘Sure, let’s do it.’ Plus, they mentioned the word scholarship and I jumped on it.”
Gore told me what other high schools could do to get do to get the program started. She ticked these items.
“You’ve got to have someone who loves kids and loves being with kids and is willing to do it without getting compensated,” she said. “You’ve got to have some kids that are interested. Once those kids approach that principal and say ‘We want a bass club,’ then that principal may go out or tell those kids, ‘Well, you find a sponsor and then we will do it.’ ”
Gore told me the kids can receive their high school letter if they meet the criteria. She has developed that criteria and told me that all another coach or teacher needs to do is contact her and she would be happy to share it with them.
“And that is the other cool thing about this, it’s parents and kids working together,” she said. “And the other thing I have tried to do is give the kids an opportunity to be with their parents. Be with their dads or moms out on the water on a Saturday or Sunday.”
Gore credits the parents, students and her volunteers for making the program a success. She considers them all family.
Nothing is more important for the future of hunting and fishing than helping the next generation learn about the sports we love. Let’s all do a little more where we can.
These days it is hard not to be concerned about our national economy.
Closer to home we are all bearing the burdens of the economic hard times we face. Layoffs, bank mergers and going out of business signs are part of our daily life.
In times like these we should try and “buy local” whenever we can.
Here in the Valley we have some wonderful small businesses that provide the goods and services for hunting and fishing.
Hunting and fishing are economic engines that support our local economy. Not only do the sales of gear and equipment mean jobs for those who make and sell those things, but there are jobs and economic benefits beyond those businesses.
People who work in manufacturing and retail live in the local communities. They buy goods and services like food, cars, gas and hardware locally. They are our friends and neighbors.
In Virginia hunters and anglers historically spend more than $1 billion annually. That annual spending accounted for 24,000 jobs with salaries and wages of more than $680 million.
Here are a few of my favorite hunting and fishing businesses in the Valley. These are shops and businesses I have visited and are by no means the only ones in the Valley.
Are you a bow hunter? Did you know that Parker Bows are made right here in Mint Spring? That’s right, the Valley is home to one of the largest producers of compound bows and crossbows in the world.
Full disclosure here, my brother-in-law works there, so I won’t offer an opinion on the equipment. My point is that this is a local business employing local people, supporting the local economy making equipment for bow hunters.
You cannot buy the bows at the factory, you need to buy them from local dealers. Here in the Valley you can buy Parker Bows at Dominion Outdoors in Fishersville and the Rockingham County Farm Cooperatives.
Kevin Harris and Todd Reed started Dominion Outdoors with a small storefront in 1994. The new store off Tinkling Springs Road is a hunter’s and fisherman’s delight.
If there is a local “one-stop shop” for hunting and fishing gear Dominion Outdoors fits the bill. They strive for good customer service and in my case succeeded.
They have a complete archery department, of course with a bow technician on site to help with set up.
The gun racks and cases hold hundreds of rifles, shotguns and pistols. They are well stocked with ammunition and shooting supplies and have a gunsmith on hand as well.
The clerk behind the counter in the fishing department was very friendly and helpful. They have a wide selection of conventional rods, reels and fishing tackle although they were a little thin on the fly-fishing gear.
Besides hunting and fishing gear you will find clothing and footwear to meet just about every outdoor need.
Because of his work with the Izaak Walton League of America I am a big fan of Jon Ritenour and his Homestead Gun Shop in Harrisonburg.
Besides selling guns, ammo and shooting supplies, Ritenour is also a gunsmith.
His is an old time shop without frills, a shooter’s hangout. He is well known in the community and sought out by many for his views and advice.
Ritenour’s work as President of the Rockingham-Harrisonburg Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America is a great example of a local business giving back to the community of customers they serve.
For the fly-fishers there are three great shops here in the Valley.
Mossy Creek Fly Fishing is an Orvis shop in Harrisonburg. Brian and Colby Trow not only sell fly-fishing and fly tying gear and equipment, they also offer instruction and guided trips.
They have fishing trips to the mountains, spring creeks, private water or the James and Shenandoah Rivers. They teach fly fishing classes at their Orvis Endorsed Fly Fishing School in Harrisonburg or at Wintergreen Resort. They also offer fly tying clinics during the winter and fly tying classes year round.
Like Ritenour, the Trow brothers are involved in the local community. They are active in Trout Unlimited and Project Healing Waters, two groups I strongly support.
Harry Murray’s Fly Shop in Edinburg is another great shop. Murray’s local knowledge and skill has made him a legend. Murray routinely writes articles sharing his vast knowledge and experience with others.
He also offers lessons, guided trips and is always happy to give you the latest hot spots.
Over the mountain in Charlottesville is the Albemarle Angler. Along with fly-fishing gear they offer instruction and guided trips. Like Mossy Creek Fly Fishing they are involved in the local conservation efforts of Trout Unlimited. They are also strong supporters of Project Healing Waters.
The shop is billed as a “Sporting Lifestyle Outfitter”. They have lots more than just hunting and fishing gear. You can find dog beds, gift items and fancy sporting clothes as well.
These days of economic challenges make it tough for all of us. Here in the Valley we are fortunate to have friends and neighbors who work in businesses that make our days in the field or on the water better.
Next time you need some gear stop in your local shop and buy local.
There are two sports shows coming up at the end of the month.
The Greater Virginia Sports & Big Game Show kicks off its second year on Feb. 20 that runs through Feb. 22. The show is held at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds.
The show features hunting and fishing outfitters, vendors and experts giving demonstrations, seminars and advice. There will also be chances to win guided hunts and door prizes.You can get more information on the show’s Web site at http://www.vasportsshow.com
The 22nd Annual Western Virginia Sport Show takes place at Augusta Expoland in Fishersville Feb. 27 through March 1.
Along with hunting and fishing outfitters and vendors, the Western Virginia Sport Show offers free seminars, hourly door prize drawings, contests and demonstrations during the entire three-day event.
You can get more information on the show’s Web site at http://www.westernvasportshow.com
You can read more of my columns in the News Virginian.
My tribute in this morning’s News Virginian:
There are some columns one would prefer never to write. This is one of them.
Please indulge me as I reflect on two people who are no longer with us. Not to mourn their loss so much as to celebrate their lives.
On Tuesday morning one of my very closest friends lost his battle with cancer.
He was like a brother to me. The best man in my wedding, a hunting and fishing partner of many years and the voice on the other end of the phone keeping me strong when trouble came. And oh, the whiskey we drank.
Many of you have never heard of James D. Range. But all of you have been touched by his work. He was a conservation hero. Embodying a conservation ethic on the scale of Roosevelt, Leopold, Muir and Pinchot.
One of my most cherished memories, from many years ago, is standing with him in my dining room one night. We got choked up looking out at the fields and woods where I lived.
He told me that not a lot of folks were willing to protect the things he, I and many of you love so much like fish, wildlife and the wild things of this earth. He said, “Tommy we have to protect the wild things. If we don’t do it, it won’t get done.”
Tears streamed down our faces. Big men do cry.
Range was a modern architect of natural resource conservation. A skilled bipartisan policy and political genius with an extraordinary network of friends and contacts.
Range had wonderful oratorical gifts, a way of always speaking from his heart, sometimes in language not fit for a family newspaper. You may not have liked what he said but you surely knew what he thought.
He was the personification of “if they don’t see the light, we can surely make them feel the heat.”
Range’s fingerprints are all over the nation’s conservation laws, including the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. His championing of conservation tax incentives earned him a profile in Time magazine.
He ably chaired the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Board of Directors pouring his enormous energy into its resurrection.
He served with distinction and candor on the Board’s of Trout Unlimited, the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, the American Sportfishing Association, Ducks Unlimited, the American Bird Conservancy, the Pacific Forest Trust, the Valles Caldera Trust and the Yellowstone Park Foundation.
Range was an original board member of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, helping to chart the outstanding course it is on today. He also held presidential appointments to the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin and the Sportfishing and Boating Partnership Council.
In 2003, Range received the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Great Blue Heron Award, the highest honor given to an individual at the national level by the Department.
He was also awarded the 2003 Outdoor Life Magazine Conservationist of the Year Award and the Norville Prosser Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Sportfishing Association.
Range’s greatest love was the outdoors. He fished and hunted all over the world. I suspect he was happiest however, at his place on the Missouri River near Craig, Mont.
Flyway Ranch was his sanctuary. A sanctuary, which, in typical Range fashion, he shared with friends and colleagues so they too could enjoy a respite from challenges both personal and professional.
Beside his multitude of friends and admirers, Range is survived by his father, Dr. James Range of Johnson City, Tenn., brothers John Neel, Harry and Peter, twin daughters Allison and Kimberly, and loyal bird dogs Plague, Tench and Sky.
Range may be gone but we will be telling stories about him for the rest of our lives.
The Valley lost another friend recently as well. She was one of Range’s favorite people and the mother of his girlfriend Anni.
Jean Marion Gregory Ince, died on Jan. 12 at the University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville. She and her husband Eugene St. Clair Ince, Jr. and her beloved golden retriever “Meg” were residents of Madison.
Like Range, Jean Ince was a giver. She and Meg, a certified therapy dog, worked with patients at the Kluge Children’s Rehabilitation Center in Charlottesville and at the Augusta Medical Center in Fishersville.
Anni told me her mom, like Range, loved the outdoors and animals, particularly horses and dogs. She said that love was passed on to her children and grandchildren as well.
Jean and Bud enjoyed a special relationship. They wrote about it in the December 1978 issue of GOURMET Magazine. An Evening at the Waldorf chronicles the evening of their engagement.
It is a wonderfully engaging story of a young couple, a special hotel, and a time when doing for others was a common practice.
I hope you will take a moment to read it. It is a gift that will make any day a better one.
You can find a copy of An Evening at the Waldorf at http://www.usna.org/family/waldorf.html.
Jim Range and Jean Ince have made our world a better place. Their friends and families miss them but their memories will warm our hearts forever.
NOTE: A website, JimRange.com has been created in his honor. You can learn more about Jim and see pictures and stories from his friends.
This is a follow up to my column on 12/04/08.
Now you can see what various groups have given to the transition team at meetings and offer comments about those meetings and the materials.
Sportsmen and -women need to be engaged now more than ever. This is another easy opportunity to do.