Modern Day Bait and Switch
Here’s a simple definition of a Conservation Easement:
In the United States, a conservation easement is a power invested in a qualified private land conservation organization or government to constrain, as to a specified land area, the exercise of rights otherwise held by a landowner so as to achieve certain conservation purposes.
Sounds pretty straight forward and non-threatening. How could anybody criticize a private property owner’s right to do what they wish to their own property? If they want to create a wildlife sanctuary, protect the environment, it should be their right. Most of us in the liberty movement, including myself, would defend vigorously this basic right. If that were the whole story, there would be no conflict.
Now let’s discuss what really happens in the process:
A number of programs have been developed over the years. One of the most abused is the Forest Legacy Program, a federal USDA/FOREST SERVICE program that was authorized for use by the Idaho Legislature in the 1995/1996 time frame. The Idaho Dept. of Lands administers the program within our state. It allows the US Government to allocate taxpayer funds to promote and purchase developmental rights from private property owners.
You say, wait a minute, taxpayers fund for what? Now the plot starts to thicken. Remember in the definition above the statement “power invested in a qualified private land conservation organization? This is what is commonly referred to as a NGO (Non-Governmental Organization). Although there are many, 2 of the largest in Idaho are the Idaho Conservation League and The Nature Conservancy.
These groups are given sole responsibility to solicit property owners, write extensive conservation easements that diminish land use down to the “wilderness” level, pick and choose which properties will be selected for consideration, and after completion have sole responsibility to enforce such easements. In addition, they are paid well for all this administrative work and, because they are considered Non-Governmental, have no public meeting or freedom of information act requirements. In other words, everything is kept a secret!
You’re not raising an eyebrow yet? Well, there’s more. When a property is selected in the process, a full market appraisal of the property is ordered and, after the property is finalized, the private owner of the property receives up to 80% of the market value of the property! I don’t know about you but in today’s recessionary economy I sure would like to be in line to get somebody to pay me .80 cents on the dollar of my property’s value and still retain ownership of it!
Oh and did I mention, these ultra-restrictive easements are in place in perpetuity (FOREVER)!
So you say after all this, “Well, it prevents out of control development.” This might be a good argument in New York City or Los Angeles, but North Idaho? Boundary County is already 75% public land administered by the US Forest Service keeping us out with gates and fences. With this program, the other 25% is close behind. But, I guess that’s been the plan all along; no place for people.
So, the next time you hear about some wonderful family exercising their private property rights by turning their property into a private conservation preserve, give them a call and ask when you can come and use the portion you paid for. I’m sure those pesky “no trespassing signs” and the 12 gauge shotgun presented to you at check-in won’t mean a thing.
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