As someone who has dedicated his career to land conservation, I take issue with Edgar Allen Beem’s Universal Notebook column, “Dictates of the Dead.” Why would a landowner want to leave a legacy for tomorrow knowing the rules are subject to change after he or she is gone?
Beem misses the fundamental personal values, property rights, and economic underpinnings of a landowner’s choice to conserve land. Owning land means owning rights – to develop, extract, enjoy and sell. When a piece of land is developed it is changed forever. We all benefit from those landowners who choose a different outcome for their land. The whole point of the conservation easement is to see that the non-monetary values of beauty, ecosystems and balanced enjoyment of the land are owned and looked out for by a third-party steward whose mission is about both today and tomorrow. In return, landowners need to know the rules around their investment in our future and their legacy are not going to be manipulated for current-day desires, whether they are alive or not.
I say thank you to the thousands of landowners who have found the value in their land extending beyond a dollar today, and have entered into conservation easement contracts that protect beautiful places for us and future generations to enjoy. I also thank Beem for strengthening my resolve to ensure that land conservation matters for people like Marion Payson and people with a vision who follow.