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<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Washington, D.C., May 10, 2005—The effort to permanently eliminate the anti-environment “death tax” is moving from the U.S. House to the Senate this week, with the introduction of the Jobs Protection and Estate Tax Reform Act of 2005 by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL). A similar measure passed the House last month by a substantial margin of 110 votes, including the support of forty-two House Democrats. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
“The effort to kill off this burdensome and inefficient tax is long overdue,” said Fred L. Smith, Jr., President of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “Not only is it a killer for small, family-owned businesses, and extremely unfair to aspiring entrepreneurs, but it has also had a dramatically negative environmental impact.”
As chronicled  by former CEI Director of Environmental Studies Jonathan H. Adler, the death tax forces many heirs to sell off undeveloped land in order to meet their liabilities. This is especially true for countless rural Americans who are “land-rich and cash-poor.” For them, subdividing or developing inherited land is the only way to pay the death tax.
With ever more large tracts of wild land broken up and developed in order to pay federal tax bills, the negative effects on biodiversity and threatened species are clear. Larger species, like the Florida panther, are particularly vulnerable because they depend on large, uninterrupted swaths of habitat. According to Dennis Hammond of the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, the estate tax is a major threat to the species survival in that state.
For too long policymakers have labored under the assumption that the only way to enhance environmental protection is the enactment of more federal rules and regulations. In CEI’s view, lawmakers often forget that existing federal laws are often part of the problem. Before imposing new regulatory requirements on private landowners, we should first identify and eliminate those existing policies—the death tax in particular—that encourage the destruction of habitat.