WASHINGTON - A new tax-credit bond program authorized by Congress in the recently enacted farm law is actually a disguised "earmark" for $250 million of federal funds that would be used to finance a massive conservation project in Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus' home state of Montana, according to statutory and regulatory provisions, as well as market participants.

The Internal Revenue Service issued a 21-page notice late Friday detailing the requirements, and soliciting applications, for the new qualified forest conservation bond program, under which the IRS is authorized to allocate up to $500 million of tax-credit bonds for conservation projects that meet certain criteria. The program is designed, ostensibly, to provide tax credit bonds to help finance the acquisition of forest land for conservation purposes.

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