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Property easements fuel county concerns

By Sun Advocate

When officials adopted a master plan for public land use in the county, the commissioners expressed concern about potential problems with conservation easements.
According to the officials, conservation easements and potential problems resulting from the actions could negatively impact Carbon County government’s tax base
A conservation easement is a restriction placed on a parcel of land to protect a named resource located on or associated with the property.
The easement usually prohibits certain types of development activities.
Ownership is basically a group of rights and individual holding title to property possesses.
A person can give away all or part of the rights by selling, leasing or renting the property to different individuals.
And when owners grant easements, they also give up some rights to the land.
People may still own the property, but what they can do on the land becomes restricted, depending on the requirements of the easement.
Easements, in general, have served beneficial purposes for many years. Various local, state and federal governmental entities may have easements across certain parcels
Often, utility companies have easements through property to provide services for the public good.
In addition, mineral leases may provide easements for companies extracting the natural resources.
Generally, beneficial easements fall under the category of service to the public domain and are often included in the deal when properties are purchased.
However, conservation easements are placed on land rather than being inherent in owning the property.
The only people who can place conservation easements on a private properties are the owners.
If a lien has been placed on the property, the credit company or lending institution must also agree to the easement.
Usually, a conservation easement is granted in perpetuity and the property must be protected by an entity that will exist beyond the life of current and future owners.
The power to monitor and enforce the easements must be placed with parties like government entities, private land trust organizations or non-profit agencies.
In many cases, a government entity and a private agency are named to enforce the easement since warding off future will require financial support.
Land with conservation easements are still private property and only certain activities are restricted.
However, conservation easement holders assume the responsibility of enforcing the designated requirements and restrictions.
Enforcement involves several steps:
•First, the holder must establish a base line on the condition of the property and the language in the easement must be clear and concise.
Related documents may include not only the easements, but property descriptions and maps.
•The entity must monitor activities on the land.
A representative of the organization or agency must visit the property periodically to be sure the easement is not being violated.
•In the event the land comes up for sale, the responsible entity must provide information about the easement to all prospective property owners.
•Records must be maintained on the easement.
And if necessary, legal action must be taken to ensure that the easement remains intact.
A relatively new trend in the United States prompted the concern voiced by Carbon County officials.
Environmental groups are currently buying property at locations across the nation and placing rigid restrictions on the land with conservation easements.
A second trend recently surfaced that has complicated the situation.
After acquiring private property, a significant number of environmental groups are selling or donating the land to the federal government.
The environmental group’s actions remove the property’s true value from local government tax roles and place permanent economic restrictions on the land.

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