Conservation Easements -
Explanation of Terms
By Carol W. LaGrasse
"The Environmental Trust Bankruptcy" - by Darrel Beck (Reprinted by permission from newsletter
of Citizens for Private Property Rights, Santa Ysabel, California,
The San Diego-based land trust called The Environmental Trust
filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy last spring, leaving behind debt
exceeding #13 million, many unrecorded conservation easements,
incompletely deposited endowment funds, and inadequate financial
ability to protect "critical habitat"
on lands it was obligated to manage.
"Conservation Easements The Hidden Inevitable
- OpEd by Clarice Ryan, Big Fork, Montana, July 4, 2004
Down-to-earth reflections on the perpetuity of conservation
Responds to Minnesota Governor's Plan"
- By Chuck Damschen, LAND Past President (Reprinted by permission
from Landowners Association of North Dakota, January 2004, p.
LAND expresses concern over Minnesota Governor Pawlenty's
expanded Conservation Reserve Enhancement Plan. Landowners are
having negative experiences with perpetual easements. LAND favors
short-term easements that can be renegotiated on a regular basis.
"Land Trust Bonanza in 'Faith Based Initiative'
Blocked Again in Congress"
- PRFA, September 2003
The House Ways and Means Committee approved HR 7, Pres. Bush's
Faith Based Initiative, but
struck out a land acquisition/conservation easement provision
for a capitol gains break that would
benefit the land trusts to the tune of a billion dollars.
"Farm Bureau seeks limits for conservation easements" - by Steve Miller, West River Editor, Rapid City
Journal, August 26, 2003 (Reprinted by permission of the
Rapid City Journal)
The South Dakota Farm Bureau began a petition drive to limit
perpetual conservation easements. "Unseen changes
in the future can place unintended hardships on future property
owners," said Dick Kjerstad, president.
"Senate Drops Stealth Measure for Capital Gains
By Carol W. LaGrasse (PRFA, June 24, 2002)
A capital gains tax credit of 25 percent was to favor landowners
who sell land or conservation easements to land trusts or government.
This "conservation" provision was hidden
in Bush's "Faith-based Initiative."
Asst. Sec. of U.S. Dept. of Interior responds to LaGrasse
(DOI Letter, June 18, 2002)
Commenting specifically on LaGrasse's March 10, 2002
letter to DOI, Lynn Scarlet, Asst. Secretary, Policy, Management
and Budget, responded, "With respect to your recommendation
that endangered, threatened and rare species restoration should
be contracted out, the President's Management Agenda does
call for a greater focus on competitive sourcing...We share your
desire for transparency and a wide range of partnerships for
"Congress Holds Stacked Hearing on Conservation
- By Carol W. LaGrasse
(PRFA, May 4, 2002)
Fifty percent capital gains tax break would shift title to
private land and conservation easements to land trusts and government.
Land trusts, members of Congress, and big industry testify exclusively.
However, articles give visibility to property rights activists'
objections to Administration proposal.
Passes Conservation Easement Legislation"
- Carol W. LaGrasse
(PRFA, July 2001)
Uniform Conservation Easement Act passes with modifications to
third party enforcement provisions, plus clauses intended to
protect forestry and coal interests
Update - June 2001:
Easement Bill in Pennsylvania Legislature-H.R. 975 Would Cancel
Protections for Private Property, Allow Third Parties to Enforce
- Carol W. LaGrasse (PRFA, June 2001)
Drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform
(complete text of model law)
Now in its third
reprint: For a copy of the complete text of "Conservation
Easements," explaining why they are a "wolf in sheep's
Send $3.00 (incl. p&h) to PRFA for Positions on Property,
Vol. 5, No. 1 (July 2000). Includes "Informed Consent."
N.Y. State residents please add 7% sales tax.
Attention Virginia ResidentsJune
The Virginia Land Rights Coalition has just published an attention-grabbing
little booklet to help fight conservation easements. It is entitled
"Return of the Dead Hand" and is available upon request.
(A small donation to cover
postage and handling is appreciated.)
to National Parks Subcommittee
Hearing on the National Historic Register, April
By Peter F. Blackman
The National Register is supposed to be elective and an honor.
The National Park Service literature trumpets time and again
that you can do anything you wish with your house without penalty.
The "National Park Service and others will use the National
Register as a bludgeon against the property owner and trample
his property rights, if they can."
"Supplemental Statement to Testimony"
Subcommittee on National Parks
Hearing on the National Historic Register, April 21, 2005
By Peter F. Blackman
Owner of house in the Historic Green Springs District located
in Louisa County, Virginia, cannot repair his unexceptional,
decrepit house because of National Park Service's purported conservation
easement on his house. The dispute is in litigation.
"The Cost of Open Space"
-By Pat Taylor, Realtor
Magazine Online, October, 2004
Efforts to conserve land raise property rights, affordability
and tax concerns into the future with hands tied,
under new scrutiny, know conservation easement value.
Michigan Model Conservation Easement
This model document, which was provided by Rachel Thomas as
a form used by the State of Michigan, contains typical clauses
demonstrating the danger of conservation easements.
Review of the Law of Easements
Continuing education course available,
document covers fundamentals of easement law and more. Concepts
discussed enable an understanding of many principles of easement
law in this country.
By Schroeder Law Offices,
Serving Oregon, Washington, Idaho & Nevada since 1991
Easements: Letter to a Wisconsin Property Owner" - By
Carol W. LaGrasse, Property Rights Foundation of America, Inc.,
July 31, 2012
In response to a letter from a Wisconsin property owner about
the State of Wisconsin's announced plan to acquire conservation
easements on 67,346 forest acres to become the Brule-St. Croix
Legacy Forest, from Lyme St. Croix Forest Company, this letter
gives some broad outlines of areas where the conservation easement
acquisition should be given critical scrutiny, and how to obtain
Designs on Your Property Rights" - By Robert J. Smith,
Senior Fellow for Environmental Policy, National Center for Public
Policy Research; Adjunct Senior Environmental Scholar, Competitive
Enterprise Institute; & President, Center for Private Conservation,
Washington, D.C.; Presented at Twelfth Annual National Conference
on Private Property Rights (PRFA, Albany, N.Y., October 18, 2008)
The Bush Administration appointed major corporate and land
trust figures such as John Turner, Henry Paulson, Gail Norton
and Lynn Scarlet, who were enemies of private property ownership
and private property rights, instead emphasizing "partnerships"
and conservation easements. The Congress is designating nonstop
Wilderness Areas, National Parks, National Battlefields, National
Monuments, National Heritage Areas, National Scenic Trails, and
Wild and Scenic Rivers. However, Rep. Rob Bishop and Rep. Paul
Broun are bright lights for private property rights.
Easements and TDR's: Fifth Amendment Takings through Zoning"
- By James E. Morgan, Esq., Principal, Galvin and Morgan, Counselors
at Law, Delmar, N.Y.; Twelfth Annual National Conference on Private
Property Rights (PRFA, Albany, N.Y., October 18, 2008)
Transferable development rights, or TDR's, are recognized
as a way of compensating property owners when the government
takes property rights. But the state valued the TDR's
in the Long Island Pine Barrens at a fraction of the fair value,
rather than take the property by eminent domain, which would
have given the property owners more rights. We are going back
to a day when property owners are becoming like feudal serfs
rather than property owners. Be prepared to fight for the long-term.
Easements in Perpetuity are for a Long, Long Time" -
By Clarice Ryan, Big Fork, Montana - Op Ed, February 21, 2008
The perpetuity of conservation easements locks in the vision
that a property owner has for his land to narrow decisions that
were made in the past. Conservation easements disguised as "saving"
the environment are placing private land under government control.
The "let it burn" policies and the tax
burdens to the diminishing property owners are having a profound
impact on rural communities faced with Open Space protection.
Buyers become scarce for conservation easement land, and tax
liens and litigation to try to terminate the covenant lie ahead.
York Property Rights Directions"-Speech by Carol W.
LaGrasse, Cato Institute Conference-"Property Rights on
the March: Where from Here," December 1, 2006, Washington,
An overview of where property rights stand in New York, what
the directions are, and where the work for our cause has been
effective: focusing on the battle to keep land in private hands,
holding off extreme land-use regulation, the issue of conservation
easements, regional preservationist land-use battles, ubiquitous
zoning conflicts; and eminent domain.
Easements-Perpetual Problems" - By Julia D. Mahoney,
Ph.D., Professor, University of Virginia School of Law, Speech
to the Seventh Annual NY Conference on Private Property Rights
(PRFA, October 18, 2003)
Conservation servitudes have been used to protect millions
of acres of lands. Is it feasible or desirable to bind future
generations? Conservation easements are designed "to
prevent the reunification of the interest to the property owner."
Julia D. Mahoney, Ph.D.
Conservation Easement Bill Defeated"
By Carol W. LaGrasse (PRFA, March 15 2003)
In a victory for private property rights, legislation that
would have enacted the Uniform Conservation Easement Act into
law in Wyoming was defeated on March 4, the final day of the
session, with a Senate tie vote.
Easement Reform Bill introduced into the Montana House of Representatives"
(Full Text of HR 725, Feb. 24, 2003)
Representative Rick Maedje introduced legislation into the
Montana Legislature in February that would regulate conservation
easements. Among the many important proposed reforms, the bill
would protect the seller with a two-year cooling off period and
prohibit conservation easements from preventing natural resource
Easements" - By Richard E. Hitchcock
(PRFA, August 2002)
A short, non-technical explanation of the nature of conservation
easements and recent laws, including the Uniform Conservation
Easement Act, that modify traditional easement law.
Easements-A Second Look"-By Carol W. LaGrasse, Speech
to the Boone and Crockett Club Annual Meeting, Hilton Rye Town,
Rye Brook, N.Y., November 30, 2001 (PRFA, Dec. 2001)
This speech to the Boone and Crockett Club, a nationwide hunting
and conservation association founded by Theodore Roosevelt in
1887, addresses why conservation easements are hostile to hunting
and ranching, as well as touching on the common dangers to farming
and timber production.
- "Conservation Easements-One
Rancher to Another"-By Joe Mehrten, Mehrten's Ranch, Clements,
An exchange of letters bringing out the many interrelated
issues, especially conservation easements, infringing on the
future of the rural West. (Click to select from three full letters.)
- Letter by Joe Mehrten
(Jan. 6, 2002) points out, "Conservation easements
with private land trusts are so intertwined with government regulations
and controls as to be little different from easements sold to
from Bev Sparrowk, Sparrowk Livestock (Jan. 8, 2002)
states, "Jack and I have discovered in our exposure to
and dealings with government agencies conversation and a spirit
of cooperation usually reaps the results we had hoped for."
- Joe Mehrten's reply
(Jan. 29, 2002), after he learned that a government grant,
rather than conservation easements, is involved: "[T]he
grant application makes it abundantly clear that this project
invites destruction of our property rights."
- A Trio of Articles on Wildlands and Conservation Easements
- "Pew took
a public misstep" - by Carol W. LaGrasse, "President's
Corner," Agri-News, May 25, 2001
A refutation of the denials by Pew Charitable Trust of its
connection to the radical Wildlands Project and of the connection
of conservation easements to The Wildlands Project.
and misstatement..." - Letter to the editor by the Pew
Charitable Trusts' Director of Environmental Programs, Joshua Reichert,
which was published in Agri-News, May 11, 2001.
Attacks the reprint of the John Elvin article asserting the
connection between wildlands and conservation easements.
and Conservation Easements-The Connection Between 'Em"
A brief summary of a reprinted version in Agri-News, April 13, 2001,
of an article by columnist John Elvin in Insight magazine.
- "Horse Tale"By
Kit Shy (Reprinted by permission, 2001)
The rancher's story, "Hoss Tale,"
by surveyor Kit Shy of Westcliffe, Colorado, uses allegory to
show how the bundle of rights attached to private property will
be desiccated under conservation easements. You don't
know whether to laugh or cry.
- "A Critical
Look at Conservation Easements" - By Carol W. LaGrasse
(Speech to Tompkins County Farm Bureau, Dryden Veterans of Foreign
Wars Hall, Dryden, N.Y., October 26, 2000)
Benefits for farmers that are attributed to conservation easements
are inaccurate, exaggerated and inequitable. The results of conservation
easements are the loss of equity and the rights to use the land.
- Informed Consent
PRFA's "Informed Consent" checklist
is designed to help the private property owner and his legal
counsel to level the playing field in dealing with the slick
experts who negotiate for the land trusts.
Land EasementsFreezing the Future" - William R.
Sayre, Chairman, Forest Policy Task Force, Associated Industries
of Vermont, Montpelier, Vt., from Proceedings of the Fourth
Annual New York Conference on Private Property Rights (1999)
- Letter to
Honorable Pat Roberts, Chairman, House Agriculture Committee,
from W. L. Harris, Holcomb, Mississippi, September 22, 1995.
This letter describes how rice farmer W. L. Harris, after
recovering from severe financial problems common during the 1980's,
tried to exert his lease back - buyback rights, but the Farmer's
Home Administration (now the Farm Services Agency) placed wetlands
easements on the 1004 best acres, prohibiting him from doing
anything but paying taxes on the land.