Stockgrowers Thank Rounds for Statement on Perpetual Easements
In a letter sent this week, the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association thanked Senator Mike Rounds for his recent editorial entitled, Perpetual Conservation Easements: Forever Is a Long Time. The editorial questioned the need for perpetual easements, specifically conservation easements, which can severely limit the use and management of private property.
The Stockgrowers member-developed policy agrees with Senator Rounds’ position that perpetual easements infringe on the private property rights of future generations. Their letter stated, “Protecting private property rights has been an absolute mainstay of our member driven policy.”
Stockgrowers President Bill Kluck wrote, “Conservation and resource management on private property is a staple of responsible property ownership. As many a rancher can attest, if you take care of the land, it will take care of you. As ranchers, we take pride in managing our land in a way that improves grazing for livestock and wildlife, reduces erosion, and builds strong, resilient grasslands.”
Perpetual easements are a tool used by non-profit organizations and federal agencies to place specific requirements and limitations for use of private property – usually conservation practices. Landowners are usually paid for their agreement to the terms of the easement and the restrictions are maintained even after the land changes owners. However, future landowners are usually not compensated, though they will be significantly impacted by the terms of a perpetual easement.
“Tying a piece of property into a perpetual easement for a specific use, management, and oversight by a third party who holds the easement does little to change a landowners ability to make sound conservation decisions, but could substantially limit the ability to implement those ideas.”
The South Dakota Stockgrowers Association has advocated for legislation that would limit the terms of conservation easements to only 99 years. They argue that 99 years still allows land to be developed for a specific use and see a current landowner’s conservation stewardship carried forward. However, the limitation would also allow future generations to make decisions about conservation practices, and the flexibility to use the land in a way that can keep their farming and ranching operation viable – decisions which are a central value of private property ownership.
Kluck concluded by saying, “Thank you, Senator Rounds, for your support of private property rights by limiting the use of perpetual easements. If given the opportunity, we believe that independent farmers and ranchers will continue to rise to the challenges and improve conservation practices the same way that our generation has improved upon those who came before us – without the use of perpetual easements.”