Hoxie meeting points out dangers of ‘conservsation easements,’ loss of rights to private land
By RUSTIN WATT
• Leader & Times
Perpetuity — forever or for an indefinite period of time.
Conservation easements are used today to take over land and its development in perpetuity by the federal government. The easements are a mechanism that transfers private property and land ownership to the federal government.
This topic was covered extensively Thursday evening in Hoxie High School Auditorium with the Executive Director of the Kansas Natural Resources Coalition J.R. Carlson and a panel of four county commissioners including Seward County’s Jim Rice and commissioners from Sherman, Gove and Ford counties.
“We are concerned with the way this country is going,” Carlson said.
Many more commissioners were in the audience of roughly 60 to 70.
The meeting touched on the listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken and the black footed ferret as near-endangered species. The listings have led to the animals being reintroduced on lands with the owner’s permission and without their neighbor’s consent. Populations have not been as easily managed as the government has said it would be. Property values have also declined not just on the property allowing the creatures but the neighboring properties as well.
A coalition of 105 county commissioners including those from 31 counties in western Kansas found that there was no scientific or substantive evidence for the listing of the animals. The answer that was found for the lower populations in the area was simply drought. These listings are being used by the federal government as a means to offer a conservation easement to those with large amounts of land.
When offered a conservation easement, generally there is a monetary offer and a minimum of 30 percent tax reduction for the landowner entering into the agreement. They would receive those benefits on the condition that the government (though the inhabitants still “own the land”) has the right to manage the property. The inhabitants from that day forward, and for all eternity, may never build, change, modernize, allow utilities, wind turbines, drilling or generate new revenue for their property despite the fact they still “own” it.
What if a landowner says no?
They may still suffer damages if a nearby neighbor accepts an easement. Since prairie chickens and black-footed ferrets lack the ability to live inside the area contractually allowed to them, adjacent properties are put in a tough spot. The landowner not accepting the easement may drive a four-wheeler on his own property, and if a a nest of eggs is ran over, this would be an incidental take. If there are four eggs in the nest, the fine is currently $10,000 per egg and up to five years in jail.
What must hit home here is not the issue of the ferret and chicken but the federal government removing one of the most fundamental principles in law with taking property rights away from inhabitants.
The economic distress as well and many wind farm, oil, gas and others are highly concerned with the repercussions of these easements.
Many who disagree with the easements are referring to the 10th Amendment which states, “The powers not delegated to U.S. by the Constitution, nor prohibited to the states, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
While trying to rein in what many in attendance believed was an overreach of the federal government, and others beliving it is impossible to battle the feds, a member of the audience added a quote from Ecclasiastes, “Though one man may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. And a cord of three strands is not easily broken.”
Listen to interview with Commissioner Jim Rice here.