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SV Herald, Sunday, Nov 12, 2000

At least an answer.

If easements are so important ---- pay up.

To the editor?

Lee Basnar's column on conservation easements was electronically forwarded to me, and although I live way, way up north, I just had to comment.

That people even consider a conservation easement is a combination of two things.  The first factor is we don't pay our agricultural producers enough. Return on investment on ag lands are nonexistent. . . . say 2 percent on equity after the farmer puts in many far-more-than-40-hour weeks.  This in a decade where even the worst checking account pays better and you don't have
to do anything?

The second factor is property and especially inheritance taxes.

Fact is, if our farmers were prosperous and weren't facing the total loss of viable farming operations through taxation of whatever kind, "open space" wouldn't be a "problem" in need of a "solution."

And finally, I find that a conservation easement is cheating.  When one buys private land, usually after scrimping and saving a lifetime, you are supposed to own it . . . meaning you control how that land is used.  If not, why bother with all that sacrifice?

By comparison, conservation easements usually don't pay the full market price of land, but they often vest control . . . or defacto ownership.  In short, supports of CES get what they want without paying full price for it ------ and they get a tax break somewhere in there that puts even more of a
burden on the rest of the taxpayers in the taxing district.  Never mind the public funds that are often used to purchase the easement.

If conservation easement advocates really support what they advocate, they should be willing to pay for it.  They don't, and won't, just so long as they can perpetuate their lovely little scam.

Dave Skinner
Whitefish, Montana