Letter to the editor: Feister land swap deal would still set bad precedent
Among the many issues involved in the controversy over the county’s determination to extinguish the conservation easement on the Fiester Preserve, by far the most important is the precedent that would be set if the county succeeds. Your columnist Susan Knopf casually brushes this issue aside, satisfied that a good precedent would be set so long as the county offers a new parcel of greater or equal size and conservation value. In fact, it would still be a very bad precedent. When people allow a conservation easement to be placed on their land they are typically trying to protect that land, not some piece of land somewhere else. Suppose you have some land you would like to protect from development and are thinking of allowing a conservation easement on it. You are willing to sacrifice your financial interests (because your property will be worth less) to protect it in perpetuity. You want to preserve a specific piece of land, probably because you think it deserves to be protected, not just some land somewhere. But if you know that some government agency can, even in the near future, extinguish the easement because it judges the easement no longer to be of conservation value — say because of a pine beetle epidemic the land has temporarily become, to use Knopf’s unnecessarily provocative and highly misleading description of the Fiester Preserve, “mostly dirt” — or because the agency wants the land for some other useful but non-critical purpose, then you are not going to do it. The precedent would clearly be devastating to the effort to conserve land, not just in Summit County but everywhere else. The need for housing can be met in other ways. There is a much greater need to not permanently discourage conservation easements. Commissioners, please don’t sue Open Lands.
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