Nature Noted

Notes on a changing Nature

Location: Bellville, Texas, United States

I never would have predicted this one

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Easements, The Next Step

The posting from this past weekend about Land Choices made me wonder about the natural evolution of putting a conservation easement on a piece of land. Once you donate or sell the easement, and the time comes to sell the property, what happens next? Is it sold through a regular real estate agent? It certainly can be sold that way, but a number of organizations are popping up that specialize in selling easement protected property. Land Choices links to one of them, American Conservation Real Estate. It specializes in selling ranches in Montana and Wyoming with easements. The idea behind it is to link up conservation minded buyers (with some pretty deep pockets, judging by the prices) with sellers. That way you avoid the confusion of a buyer who thinks he's getting a great deal, only to discover that he can't subdivide that property to pay off some debts a few years down the road.
In Massachusetts, Land Base bills itself as a non-profit organization that has been formed by a consortium of land trusts to market easement property in that state. The Trustees of Reservations also advertises property with easements in Massachusetts.
Finally, the self-described mission of Defense of Place is to help local communities make sure that easements that are supposed to be held in perpetuity are actually held forever. It is focused mainly on parks. Here's part of the self-description on the website.
The question is one of permanence. What is our obligation to continue to preserve parks created by past generations? When we promise to preserve such spaces in perpetuity, how long is forever? How do we respond when the value of land has risen exponentially and the pressure for development increases? Will Americans be strong enough to stand up for our parks and open spaces, for wild rivers and wilderness? Is their value beyond and above money?
As long as "conservation minded" buyers can be matched with sellers, there shouldn't be a need for a Defenders program for private easement property, but I suspect that someday, probably sooner than later, the need will arrive.


Blogger Tom Andersen said...

I'm not sure it's possible for a sentient person with a competent attorney to buy land that has a conservation easement on it without knowing about the easement. To be legal and binding, conservation easements have to be filed and recorded in the local land records office, and they turn up during title searches.

That doesn't guarantee that the subsequent buyer will be as committed to the conservation purposes of the easement as the original owner, but at least he or she will be aware of it.

10:22 AM  
Blogger Pat Burns said...

You're right, I guess it's more the matchmaker aspect of lining up "conservation minded" buyers and sellers that makes sense here. The odds of somebody going through the closing process without knowing about the easement would be pretty low. Although given the "property buying boom" going on right now, I would guess there are more than a few non-sentient buyers out there these days.

8:20 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

eXTReMe Tracker