Conservation Easement Tracking –

Monitoring of Conservation Easement (CE) property transactions will be of increasing importance, particularly as the tax implications and land-management encumbrances affect more, non-participating interests and communities. Once encumbered, CE-burdened lands restricted by in-perpetuity easements can be prohibited – forever – from development.

Interestingly, there are two pathways where CEs can be removed from the title of encumbered properties. The first is by the Federal government; the second is by the Land Trusts themselves – those holding restrictions over devalued properties. Put another way, the structure of the tax and CE system allows Land Trusts to purchase devalued property – often with first rights to do so – and make it ‘whole’ again by removing the easement and management restrictions from the title. Using this approach, CE transactions have proven to be a highly profitable end game for unscrupulous, multinational environmental groups.

Examples of Land Title abuse can be found here.

Monitoring of CE proposals is important not only for tax and land devaluation implications, but also for future, regional impacts that come from such transactions. Buffer zones resulting from non-scientific, arbitrary viewshed studies or introduction of endangered species that propagate to neighboring lands are but a few examples of many unintended CE impacts. Each CE poses a potential to foist buffer-zone and view-shed encroachments on innocent and non-participating neighbors, which can result in indirect loss-of-use impacts to those properties.

Often CE properties are enrolled into programs for introduction of endangered species or development of ‘corridors,’ a initiative itself that can profoundly affect communities, industry and private lands. The introduction of endangered species substantially impacts the productivity of neighboring properties.  Examples of impacts to non-participating property owners in Logan County, Kansas from Black-Footed Ferret introductions and other activities are be found here.

By design, CEs lower property value – and thereby collateral value – which can result in lender-loan value reductions on collateral properties. CEs also through KSA 79-1476 statutorily lower tax base valuations, losses that must be absorbed by non-participating taxpayers.

To view KNRC’s database click here.

 

 

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