Conservation Easements – Not A Positive Force in Virginia – Week 5

As a true believer in free market capitalism being the best way to allocate resources, I would like to provide you a very brief summary of some of the most serious negatives associated with Conservation Easement Tax Credits. Here is the fourth of the six worse negatives:

How to Avoid a Future Crisis:

It is easy to see that there will be a crisis at some point in the future where land that is restricted in its use under a conservation easement is critically needed for some other purpose beneficial to Virginians. The Conservation Easement Tax Credit program does not provide any method for exiting property from a conservation easement.

There have been some notable cases where conservation easement holders have rejected what appeared to be extremely beneficial offers if land could be released from an existing conservation easement. To paraphrase one of the most notable replies from a large conservation easement holder, the Virginia Outdoor Foundation, “In perpetuity means in perpetuity.”

Surely there should be some method by which conservation easements can be removed based upon a repayment of the full amount of the tax credits plus some penalty and interest. In the event the alternate use was extremely beneficial, the cost of exiting the Conservation Easement would allocate the asset to the highest and best use.