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E-M:/ Better America Bonds

Better America Bonds is an ambitious proposal to help combat urban and suburban sprawl, promote "smart growth" plans, and protect open space such as forests, wetlands, critical habitat, and farmland. In the 1998 elections, more than 200 local jurisdictions had growth management initiatives on the ballot, and most of them passed. The Better America Bonds initiative reflects this tremendous local support for curbing sprawl and promoting land conservation.

 How will it work?

 The Administration's proposed year 2000 budget includes $700 million over five years for local environmental bonds. This will give state, local, and tribal governments access to $9.5 billion in bond authority over five years to purchase threatened open spaces, wetlands, or other important habitats. The communities that issue the bonds pay them back interest-free. Investors who buy these 15-year bonds receive tax credits in lieu of interest. Communities have access to zero-interest financing for land protection. Non-profit groups, working in partnership with local/state government, will have a new source of funding that can be the critical difference in raising money for land protection, especially in the first year of an acquisition.

 How can the bonds be used?

   1. Protect, restore, or enhance green space or open space like wetlands, forests, farmlands, critical habitat, endangered species habitat, or other important habitats. Local governments either alone or in partnership with non-profit organizations can use these bonds to protect or restore threatened wetlands, endangered species habitat, critical wildlife habitat by acquiring title or purchasing easements.

   2. Protect water quality. Rivers, lakes, coastal waters, wetlands, and drinking water sources can be restored or protected through various measures to reduce pollution runoff including land acquisition and reforestation.

   3. Provide environmental remediation. Funds will be available to assess and clean up brownfields for use as open space or for development.

 Who is eligible?

State, local, and tribal governments are eligible for bond authority allocation. Once allocated, the local government working alone or in partnership with local non-profit organizations like local Audubon chapters, local land trusts, Trout Unlimited, and other conservation groups can purchase or restore the land.

 Who will administer the program?

Local governments apply to EPA for a bond allocation. Once acquired, the local government, working alone or in partnership with non-profit groups purchase and manage the land and improvements. The federal role is limited to project review, approval, and bond certification.

 Where will the money come from?

The Environmental Bonds program will require an amendment to the Internal Revenue Code. This legislation would originate in the House Ways and Means Committee and would provide funding for investor tax credits in lieu of interest payments.

 What are some of the benefits and uses?


 Amy Stock
 National Audubon Society
 Better America Bonds Project Organizer

    Ten Things You Can Do to Win Approval for Environmental Bonds

   1. Support the Better America Bonds campaign by sending the support statement below to Audubon.

   2. Send us your local examples and stories of acquisition projects you are currently working on that could use the Better America Bonds program if passed.

   3. Write letters or call your Congress Member urging them to support the Better America Bonds program.
   4. Visit your Senator or Representative when they return to your district or in Washington D.C.

   5. Seek local press attention about the Better America Bonds program and its benefits to help solve local growth problems and protect threatened habitat. Try to interest a reporter in writing a local protection story in your community newspaper Write letters-to-the-editor of your local newspaper Contact local radio or TV, bring them to your local site, talk about how it could be saved with Environmental Bonds.

   6. Reach out to and recruit local government entities and planners who might benefit from this program.

   7. Recruit spokespersons and organize a speaker's bureau.

   8. Offer to take your Senator(s) and/or Representative on a tour of your site.

   9. Sign up to be part of Audubon's leadership team to assist in coordinating lobbying, grassroots organizing and message strategies.

  10. Identify and recruit allies and partners. Work with groups who have a stake in the proposal, like local land trusts, local government planners, county commissioners, and other conservation groups.

      Show your support -- fill out our Support Statement at:

Michael Boyce
Baker Sanctuary Resident Manager
Co-chair., Environmental Action Committee
Michigan Audubon Society