Bill S.119, regarding easement amendments, makes its way through the state house.
March 17, 2014
There has been a good deal of discussion about easement amendments lately, as Vermont’s Senate passed a bill on this subject last year, and S.119 has been working its way through the House this session.The Nature Conservancy has been referenced in recent news articles as a supporter of the bill, and we would like to clarify our role and position related to the proposed legislation.
In 2012, TNC’s former Vermont State Director, Bob Klein chaired the “Working Group on Conservation Easement Amendments,” which the legislature had commissioned to study the issue and which was comprised of representatives from various and disparate interests concerns with conservation easements. The Working Group reported back to the legislature as required in January of 2013.
Since that time there has been increasing public discourse about the proposed bill. Easement amendments are a difficult topic, but the ability to judiciously amend easements to protect and enhance conservation goals and the public’s investment in conservation, is sometimes necessary.This is especially true when dealing with new or changing conditions that were not anticipated at the time an easement was originally drafted.The Working Group’s report to the legislature provides some examples of these unanticipated circumstances.
It is currently possible to amend easements in Vermont without any third-party oversight, and the legislation’s intent was to improve on this situation by creating a framework for amending easements that would bring more transparency, public involvement, accountability, and rigor to the process. We have been listening carefully to the concerns from both sides of the issue, the concern of our members and supporters who care deeply about the land we protect, and people who have voiced skepticism about some of the provisions of the bill.
TNC respects that the voices that have been raised in opposition are a critical part of the public process, and we believe they have revealed clear shortcomings in S.119 that require significant further examination.Going forward, TNC will not support S.119 in its current form and will continue to work with our members and partners to find a solution that addresses the concerns that have been raised.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.