Friday, September 02, 2005

TNC and Potential Abuse of Land Easements

TNC and the Abuse of Land Easements.

This post was removed from over their justifiable fear of litigation from TNC, a most litigious organization!

Tax breaks for the rich can be gained by giving away the rights to land owned by others. (An interesting article on the subject of the potential abuse of conservation easements with reference to The Nature Conservancy was written by Chip Taylor. )

Let me explain: TNC can conceivably be duped by those who donate conservation easements, such as lumber companies and other owners of vast tracts of land. In fact this is very likely what is happening in Guildhall, Vermont today. TNC has been given the right to enforce a conservation easement donated to them by Champion Lumber. The easement reduces the resale value of the property because it means no development will be allowed to occur on this piece of property. These conservation easements, though they seem green and charitable, are actually extremely popular and very robust tax write-offs for wealthy landowners who donate the easements to land trusts such as TNC. Champion has very likely already received very handsome tax benefits for the easements they donated to TNC. TNC now has the duty to enforce the easement. That means they are responsible for the legal costs to keep that land from any sort of development including the removal of even one stick of lumber. However, since the Guildhall, Vermont property is contested property, the easement given to TNC by Champion was an easement that was not Champion’s to give away. Champion, in effect, gave away the land rights to someone else’s land. Champion therefore used TNC in order to receive an enormous tax break for giving away someone else’s land rights. Of course it is also very likely that TNC was fully complicit in such a loathsome action, since the contested land records do indeed exist in the Guildhall Land Records Office, and only the least competent of lawyers could have overlooked them.


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