Nature Noted

Notes on a changing Nature

Location: Bellville, Texas, United States

I never would have predicted this one

Monday, May 30, 2005

Et Tu, High Country News?

High Country News has weighed in with a series of articles and commentary on conservation easements. And somewhat surprisingly (at least to me) has chosen to accentuate the negative. HCN has run sympathetic stories on easements in the West in past issues, particularly Jon Christensen's article on disappearing family ranches in Colorado last year. And it has run commentaries in the past (Jon pops up here too) defending the practice. But the latest cover story Congress looks to reform a system with no steering wheel(free to nonsubscribers) by Ray Ring focuses on the abuses and secrecy. Stuff like "We’re seeing easements on people’s back yards, which really have no conservation value, and very little open-space value," says the Senate Finance Committee staffer, drawing from confidential IRS information. "We get people saying, ‘I didn’t build four McMansions that I could have on this suburban tract, I only built three, and therefore, since I didn’t build as much as I could have, I should get a charitable deduction.’ " Do you think anyone actually said that? And if a real congressional staffer did say that, do you think he was actually quoting someone, or do you think, just perhaps, he might have been embellishing just a liiiitle bit?
There is also much dwelling on the secrecy of the transactions and on their patchwork nature. There are decent points to be made on both of those issues, and some make it into the article. But I guess I'm disappointed that High Country News chose to emphasize the secrecy and the abuses. Anybody who's read any of my amateur meanderings here know that I think the system needs to be reformed. But HCN missed an opportunity here to examine how to do that, and instead put together the same of patchwork of anecdotal abuses, while broadbrushing the entire system as a giveaway to the rich. Too bad.


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