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(This is from azanderson.org under environmental issues.)   

Conservation easements - too good to be true
posted to KBC 12/21/03

By granting a conservation easement, the land will never belong to an individual again - not you, nor your heirs.

The easement will be attached to your deed.   It is simply gone - forever.

Conservation easements have become a popular way to prevent development rights. The concept is to preserve farm land, while at the same time, preventing urban sprawl.

Easements have also become a way that farmers and ranchers who are operating on a thin profit margin have found as a quick fix to their cash flow problems.

By signing land up in a Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), they receive an annual payment for a given number of years, depending on the program they have selected. They lose control of the land, as it now comes with regulations and restrictions.

Before landowners make a decision to sign their property up for "perpetuity," which means forever, they should give very serious thought and ask someone for advice, who will present both the pros and cons.

Land trusts and conservancy groups are courting potential landholders to turn their land over to them. They give all the reasons why they will forever protect your precious property; but is there another side to this story?

If a decision is made to forever protect your land by granting an easement, it will never belong to an individual again - not you, nor your heirs. The easement will be attached to your deed.

If someday your kids inherit your property and choose to fulfill a new vision, it can never be done. In fact, they are stuck with a piece of property that may have no value to them, and basically the only people interested in purchasing the property as a whole would be a land trust, such as Nature Conservancy or Farmland Trust.

The University of Illinois describes a conservation easement as a legal document that spells out what can, and what cannot be done on a property.

In most cases, a conservation easement will prohibit or limit development of the property. Each easement is unique, and is written to reflect the wishes of the property owner and the character of the property.

Easements "run with the land," which means that future owners, no matter how they acquire the land, must abide by the terms of the easement. Easements are "donated" to a conservation organization or government entity, which accepts the responsibility to monitor the easement and to enforce its terms. The holder of the easement has no ownership in the land - just the responsibility to ensure that the easement is being followed.

"A property owner must understand that by granting a conservation easement, he is not only restricting the future use of his property, he is actually conveying an interest in the property to a government agency," according to property rights advocate Rachel Thomas.
Just ask the bank what you're good for before and after the easement deal.  The bundle of rights to use the land is so severely diminished that the farmer, rancher or forester is essentially a tenant on his own land.

The use of conservation easements is just a step from 100 percent private ownership to 100 percent government ownership of property. A financial crisis can arise, necessitating the use of the land for equity, but the equity, essentially, no longer exists.

The University of Illinois says easements can provide tax benefits to the property owner. These benefits can be a charitable deduction, a property tax reduction in Illinois, and a reduction in inheritance taxes.

An important consideration for many owners is that the land remains in their ownership and can be sold, or otherwise transferred, in the normal ways.

The Paragon Foundation published a fact sheet called, "Myths about conservation easements," which was written by the Landowners Association of North Dakota (L.A.N.D.).

 "Selling property with a conservation easement will be easy?"
"No. Not many people are willing to share title with an organization or agency, as well as banks willing to lend money to purchase property with a split title."

Local communities and school districts are finding the tax burden is being placed on fewer and fewer property owners. Land trusts, environmental organizations, and the government are controlling more and more of the land, and they pay no taxes.

Another question answered by L.A.N.D is,

"If I sell a conservation easement, I can still use my property, just as I always have?"
"No. You give up control of all property covered in the easement."   FOREVER, there will be an organization or agency with the power to look over your shoulder and approve or disapprove management practices.

Most easements require you to give access at all times, even during the growing season, when access can damage crops. You may have to obtain approval for weed control, grazing, or other management practices. Many easements allow "approved" practices, but may not list specific practices. That's a loophole that allows the easement holder to change the list of approved practices, without your consent.

Private conservation groups, environmental groups, and land trusts, as well as governmental agencies can help landowners develop plans to conserve land. A landowner can be absentee and his property managed by a farm management service, and he may not realize his land has been signed away as a conservation easement.

Researchers who are following this trend, are connecting the conservation easements to the corridors designed in the Wildlands Project. A recent article by property rights specialist, Ric Frost, quotes Dave Foreman, founder of the Earth First movement, as saying he considers conservation easements as the keys to the corridors.

"If we identify a ranch that is between two wilderness reserves, and we feel it will be necessary as a corridor, we can say to the rancher, We don't want you to give up your ranch now, but let us put a conservation easement on it. Let's work out the tax details, so you can donate it in your will to this reserve system," Frost quotes from Listening to the Land by Derrick Jensen (Sierra Club Books).

Whether you are considering granting a conservation easement or not, you should ask yourself a few questions.
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis Upholding rural Americans

Why would someone want to pay to control my land, and where is the money coming from?

I have signed away my rights forever, but can they transfer their rights?

If my $1,500 an acre property should become worth $30,000, will I have regrets?

What will my kids have left, if I do this?

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Joyce Morrison lives in southern Illinois. She is a chapter leader for Concerned Women for America and she and her husband, Gary, represent the local Citizens for Private Property Rights. Joyce is Secretary to the Board of Directors of Rural Restoration/ADOPT Mission, a national farm ministry located in Sikeston. She has become a nationally-recognized advocate for property rights. http://www.eco.freedom.org/el/20031102/joyce.shtml

The most infamous of the "Green Gang" that engages in foisting Conservation Easements onto unsuspecting, uninformed, naive and ill-advised ranchers and land owners is the Nature Conservancy (TNC).   The Nature Conservancy is constantly on the lookout for distressed ranchers and landowners who can be beguiled into becoming "Willing Sellers".  Ranchers are the most susceptible owing to their proud, independent and self-reliant nature.  Rancher's feel that the are "smart enough" to deal with Nature Conservancy lawyers.  Ranchers ALWAYS lose - then are too proud to admit their folly.   Very tragic.

The Nature Conservancy is the most accomplished "land launderer" in the United States, if not the World.  It is a $ Multi-Billion operation.  Recent exposes in the Washington Post, Washington, D.C. was most revealing in a very negative way.  Many view The Nature Conservancy as a criminal enterprise that survives only due to public misinformation and its ability to hide behind the "politically correct" veil.


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