Nature Noted

Notes on a changing Nature

Location: Bellville, Texas, United States

I never would have predicted this one

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Pigs and Perpetuity

The Nature Conservancy and the National Park Service are free to keep killing wild pigs on California's Santa Cruz Island. A federal judge declined to stop the practice, which is designed to save a fox native to the island, by wiping out the non-native pigs. As much of a ruckus as this has raised, the program does seem to be achieving its aims. The population of fox pups has hit a record high.
-Another controversy on the other side of the country.... A Rhode Island school district has reached a tentative deal with The Nature Conservancy to build a new elementary school on a 13 acre parcel of land that was originally purchased as "open space".
The Westerly Sun says some are troubled by the decision. The land was originally purchased with $400,000 from TNC and $556,500 in taxpayer money from "open space" bonds. Now the school district wants to to pay $200,000 to TNC.
"In exchange for those funds, the conservancy will agree to let Charlestown use a 13-acre "envelope" of land at the front of the site, along Route 2, to build a new elementary school. And Charlestown will grant the conservancy an easement through that 13-acre parcel.
The council's decision to site a school on an open-space parcel, and to invest further open-space bond funding to develop it for a municipal use, may be considered controversial, just as a town council proposal to fund a portion of the new police station project with open space funds was hotly contested earlier in the year.
Councilor Kate Waterman, a long-time advocate of conservation issues, voted in opposition Monday to her fellow member's choice of site and investment of further funding.
"I guess you can say I'm doing it again, voting on principal and not on practicality. But this (land) was originally purchased for open space purposes. I'm not sure the voters would agree that allowing a municipal use on the site was what they had in mind."
"I cannot help but think that going in this direction is a real danger," said Waterman.
But council President Deborah Carney said the town was lucky that, following successful negotiations with the Conservancy, the parcel ended up as a possible site for the new school. "There's not a lot of properties out there any more with a "big chunk" of land like this," said Carney."

I'm with Ms. Waterman on this one. While it's a good deal for TNC, it seems to be counter to voters original intent. Open space is meant to stay open space. First its a school, then a 'low impact" housing development. Next will be a shopping mall that enhances the tax base. Again, it goes back to the meaning of perpetuity. Does that mean forever, or just until our needs change. If that's the case, what's the point of having a land trust at all?


Blogger John said...

I agree regarding the open space issue. If land is purchased as "open space" then it should stay "open space," regardless of other municipal needs. The need to preserve open space parcels is especially strong in the northeast, where few such parcels remain in some areas.

8:32 AM  

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