In my state, there is a push underway for private land owners to put their land into conservation easements. This is a legally binding instrument that restricts development, while giving the land owner a tax break. This has been spurred by a problem with large family farms, that the death tax and rising real estate taxes make it virtually impossible to pass a farm to one's heirs without a huge financial burden. Thus the farms are auctioned, to developers most often, and what was a pastoral scene becomes a McNeighborhood.
So the anti-development crowd has fostered and promoted the conservation easement as a tool to limit development and preserve our open spaces. Sounds really good on the surface.
But what is really happening? Let's see.
First, a private land owner gives up all substantial development rights on land he has owned and paid taxes on for many years. These rights are forfeited in perpetuity.
Next, the government offers in compensation a tax concession. That is, the government pays the land owner for his property rights with his own money.
Further, and not reported, the government turns around and takes, by force, the full value of the tax concession from the farmer's neighbors. Since it amounts to only a few dollars a person, no one notices.
Observe that the land owner has given up substantial rights to the property, but the government has given up no rights whatsoever. If the government wants to site a nuclear power plant, or high voltage power line on that property, no problem.
The government is robbing one land owner, and paying off another land owner to give up his rights, in perpetuity, while it retains all rights to use the land however it wishes. A land owner with no property rights, but who still pays for the use of the land, is no more than a tenant of the government.
All the while, environmentalists praise the land owner in the press for being forward thinking, compassionate toward Mother Earth, and a good steward of this planet. The environmentalists have no problem with the land owner becoming a tenant farmer because they believe in socialism anyway.
Our country was founded on a cornerstone of private property rights. Once those are eroded, the foundation of our country will crumble, with the government and their environmentalist caretakers being left with control of the land and the tenants managing it.
Certainly there will be no popular uprising against the environmentalists and their conservation easements. The tax impact to the ordinary individual is simply too small. The amount of land affected is not that great, either. However, the tragedy is that intelligent people are propagating such legal devices that are antithetical to our nation's founding. And no one else notices.
What we should be complaining about is not rampant development of former family farms. We should be complaining about the fact that government has so overspent and overtaxed that it is impossible for a son to inherit his father's farm. The people who own those parcels love the land, and seek to preserve it, but they cannot because of government, environmentalist and politician greed. There lies the real problem.
But in true liberal fashion, the Paraducers who have caused this epidemic of cheap development ride in to save the day with their ill-conceived conservation easements, reeducating the masses in socialism at the same time.
I love the land. You love the land. But the problem is not evil, capitalist developers. The problem is evil socialist politicians. Think about it.