About Conservation Easements:
Warning to County Commissioners

By John Griffith
County Commissioner
Coos County, Oregon

from ecologic - 6/1/02

County commissioners should pay attention to conservation easements and CEs' effects on tax bases, and more specifically on how CEs' affect values of tax-foreclosed property.

Here in Coos County, Oregon, our Exclusive Farm Use (EFU) zoned land cannot be developed: So development rights are not CE marketable. Here, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Services Agency, Ducks Unlimited and fellow travelers have been buying the rights to prohibit farm uses, such as haying and grazing, drainage, and essential land maintenance. They want cows gone to enhance "wetland values" and create noxious weed reservoirs.

They buy CEs regardless of the land's agricultural value. NRCS runs interference for them by hooking stressed producers to green land grabbers.

NRCS/Farm Services' CEs have put farmers out of business. From a county perspective, if the CE involves a separate tax lot or the majority of a tax lot with little value (i.e., that doesn't include the farmer's house), CE clients are foolish to pay taxes on CE-encumbered land, since they cannot practice agriculture on it ever again. Minimum NRCS/Farm Services CE terms are 10 years; twice as long as farmers must maintain drainage ditches to have the right to maintain them again under Oregon law.

Land trusts that intend to roll their public funds-purchased properties to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife or another government agency for "habitat" or refuges have incentive to pay their taxes in anticaption of the second public purchase.

Ordinary CE sellers are wise not to pay their property taxes, let CE property go to the county through tax foreclosure, and stick counties with worthless land. Counties usually cannot bank the tax-inherited land for wetlands mitigation or other useful public or private purposes because most CEs don't allow mitigation use.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only. [Ref. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml]

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