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I’m a huge believer in land conservation. I believe one of the best ways to protect our environment is to take wide swaths of land permanently out of circulation. I was delighted to read an article Amy forwarded me from the New York Times today titled Deal Is Struck in Montana to Preserve Forest Areas.
The Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land have put together a deal to pay $510 million to buy about 500 square miles of forest currently owned by Plum Creek Timber. Half of the money will come from private donations; the other half will come from a new tax-credit bond mechanism that was recently passed. I’m delighted our government is spending – via a tax-credit bond – $250 million on land conservation. I’d like to allocate 50% of my taxes next year to stuff like that.
I’ve been involved directly in some land conservation; we have a conservation easement on all of our land in Eldorado Canyon, I am a trustee for the Colorado Conservation Trust, I’m a huge fan (and beneficiary) of all the Boulder and Boulder County Open Space activity, and I’ve been involved in several very contentious land use issues. The political and economical dynamics of public property rights, land use and development rights, and conservation are incredibly complicated and often extremely polarized.
It’s gets especially messy in areas that are fragmented (or "checkerboarded") like the land in Montana. In these situations, the amount of work to figure out how to get all the land in one contiguous area into an actual deal can be mindboggling. The Nature Conservancy and Trust for Public Land are pros at this and it looks like they’ve pulled off something amazing this time around that will have long term benefits for a beautiful part of our country.