A rancher’s daughter and former county supervisor (commissioner), I used to be among those suspicious of conservation easements. Not anymore.
I love people, agriculture, and nature. Private working lands host much of the nation’s natural resources (water, wildlife, open space, etc.). I support conservation easements because I support balanced land use. Protecting important lands and natural resources is critical to our future.
Serving on the Ada County Planning and Zoning Commission during a time of extreme population growth in Idaho convinced me that unfettered, carelessly planned growth is harmful to communities. Conservation easements must continue to be a viable option for willing landowners.
Protecting lands for the future is a private property right as is development: building houses, roads, and malls. Economic wellbeing is important. We must have housing and businesses that thrive, but not at the expense of all other values. Balance. Balance. Balance.
So if we care about working lands and special places, if we love seeing wildlife and experiencing the outdoors, we must invest – fund and support in other ways too – in helping interested landowners protect their lands for future generations. Idaho’s land trusts do this every day.
In order to continue producing food and fiber for a growing world and to make sure we have special lands, wildlife, and natural resources that flourish, perpetual conservation easements are a useful tool. They won’t be for everyone (a sale to developers is part of some landowners’ retirement strategy and a private property right too) but for some landowners and for those who live, work, and play in proximity to these lands, conservation easements work well.
Misinformation about easements abounds. Urban C. Lehner covers much of it in his timely piece, In Defense of Conservation Easements. Read it, please. Before it’s too late.
It’s great to see planners and policy makers open to new information, willing to challenge their own preconceptions, and advocate for projects which benefit their public. Thank you for doing it right!
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Once we get past assumptions and suspicions, that’s where we find solutions. There’s a whole lot of ground in between extremes. Most of us live there. More of us should! Thanks, Obie!