Conservation easements have been hailed as saving working ranches, helping farmers and protecting forests and open space, as well as providing tax breaks for property owners. The primary advocates presenting these glowing claims are land trusts, the government and even environmental groups which are all enthusiastically vying to acquire as many CEs as they possibly can. Multiple millions of dollars from grants and foundations fuel this movement. When these kinds of organizations become vigorously involved in an activity, the question needs to be asked: Who really benefits?
A conservation easement is a land control device, a legal agreement that is generally permanent, in which a landowner transfers to another party the development rights of his real property. Most commonly, he takes on a partner who can not only enter the property as an adversary to inspect and judge his every act, but who also has the power to sue him if he is ever perceived to be in violation of that contract. The property owner still lives on the land but has now become subservient to the CE owner.
Current tax laws favor the owners of CEs but are oppressive for owners of large rural properties. Easements were classified as tax deductible donations in the 1976 Tax Reform Act and that, in conjunction with a depressed agricultural and natural resource base, has made many property owners so-called willing sellers of CEs. The property owner may receive a large infusion of cash or a tax break, but it does nothing to fix the underlying economic problems that caused the owner to need the CE in the first place.
CEs are used to reduce or eliminate estate taxes by way of lowering the value of the land; however, the loan and sale value of that property is also reduced. In the future, if the owner needs to sell out he may find that many people seeking land do not want to buy into a partnership and, as often happens, the entire property ends up in the hands of the trusts, environmental groups or the government.
On the other hand, buyers of CEs, usually tax-exempt themselves, are not required to pay taxes on their CEs or land, even when they sell them for a profit. Carol LaGrasse, of the Property Rights Foundation, reveals that land trusts are often acquiring land on a prearranged flip to the government and they often make fabulous profits.
Note that shortly before the 1976 Tax reform Act was passed, in 1972 the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) - the premier environmental arm of the United Nations, published the law paper,The Easement as a Conservation Technique. In the second chapter, The Need for Conservation Easements in the United States, under the heading The Need to Regulate, it says The U.S. federal and state constitutions require just compensation to be paid to a landowner...The cost to the government for paying the full value of land (particularly in areas most critically in need of preserving for scenic purposes,...) can be prohibitive;... full acquisition may clearly not be needed to accomplish the governmental objective of preserving the land in its present state. But, it continues, some legal problems in the American system...impede its usefulness unless cured by appropriate legislation,...
Several environmental groups and trusts, such as The Nature Conservancy are members of the IUCN, as is the Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife, National Park Service and others. Members are required to declare they will engage in no policy opposed to the policies of the IUCN. (www,iucn.org) [Doesnt that seem somewhat treasonous when policies often are not in the best interest of U.S. citizens?] One such goal is The Wildlands Project which is described in the United Nations Global Biodiversity Assessment. TWP evolved out of the radical Earth First! environmentalist group and intends to put at least half of N. America into wildlife habitat. Every CE furthers this Project.
The Nature Conservancy, the biggest and most powerful crafter of CEs, even helped develop TWP. TWPs summer 1998 Wild Earth Journal notes that voluntary Conservation Easements are the program they advocate at present but Please dont attempt this, however, without making a 180-degree change in modus operandi: Public confrontation is out; confidential negotiation is in. Dave Foreman, co-founder of Earth First! and TWP, and who is Wild Earths Editor, was convicted of felony conspiracy for facilitating the planned sabotage at three nuclear facilities. Such company TNC keeps! Yet they, and other IUCN groups, are so woven together in such complex monopolistic, often secret relationships with government that they are essentially quasi-government agencies and the bottom line is that they want control of your land.
Its obvious who really benefits from CEs. If trusts, environmental groups and the government really want to save the ranches, help the farmers and protect forests and open space, theyd insist that their tax-exempt status be transferred to landowners since they are the ones who are providing open space. They would get real estate brokers licenses to insure full disclosure of CEs to clients. They would fight the monopolization of producers and packers, fight to repeal the un-fair trade laws and petition to eliminate the death tax. Dont expect it! Theyre not about to put themselves out of business by taking the pressure off the landowners. The fact is that if a producer can run an economically viable operation he will not consider a conservation easement.
We read about the U.N.s conferences, treaties and about globalization almost every day in the newspapers; however, it isnt explained that policies, such as the IUCNs, are being disseminated throughout the U.S. through the Presidents Council on Sustainable Development down to the local level through the National Association of Counties. It also is not made clear that U.N. policy does not favor private ownership of property . Excellent sources of CE information are:
Compiled by The Alternative View, 406-285-3119, email@example.com