Nature Noted

Notes on a changing Nature

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Location: Bellville, Texas, United States

I never would have predicted this one

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Green space, Republican-style

The Atlanta Journal Constitution(reg. req.) calls it a Republican-style green space program, but whatever you call it, a plan by Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue would create a big chunk of money for conservation in the peach state. The proposal would create a $100 million fund from existing state funds and from private donations. According the the A.P., "The plan will create a trust fund and a revolving loan fund which local governments can use to protect lands which are important for recreational, cultural, environmental or other reasons. The money would enable governments to buy the lands outright or to purchase a conservation easement which, while leaving the property in private hands, would effectively bar its development for commercial or other purposes. Perdue called the proposal "an investment in our future" and hailed it as "more far-reaching than any previous conservation efforts." He said it "encourages creative partnerships that will allow us to stretch our conservation dollars further."
The plan calls for heavy use of conservation easements. One red flag that I see popping up already is that the measure won't necessarily require public access for private lands that sell their development rights. That's been a big issue for the IRS in determining the value of the easement. Farmers and timber companies could sell their development rights, but continue to work their property as before. There is no mention on whether there would be requirements to meet sustainable harvest certifications as in other such deals. In the competition for the funds, priority will be given to projects that protect ecologically important tracts. Also, partnerships are important... the more entities involved in protecting a particular parcel will give it a leg up on competing bids. That could act as a check to make sure sweetheart deals with individuals or corporations are minimized. One interesting feature is that taxpayers will be given the option of donating a portion of their income tax return to the fund.

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