Conservation Easements Preserve Land, with Potential Tax Benefits

Conservation easements are booming, reports The New York Times (“Love That View?”, June 29, 2007). The Land Trust Alliance says they’re up 148% since 2000. Landowners give up the right to develop a parcel, conveying it to a nonprofit land trust. To earn a tax benefit, the land “must be a habitat for certain types of wildlife, or abut a public waterway or wetlands, or have a scenic or recreational quality for the community.”

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The Republican: ‘Hamp eyes 75 acres (8/8/07)
The city has signed an option to buy a key piece of conservation land on its western boundary from developer Douglas A. Kohl.

The 75-acre parcel would provide the missing link between the Mineral Hills Conservation area and the recently purchased conservation land at the end of Turkey Hill Road. Both properties have extensive trail systems, but hikers and other trail users have not been able to get from one to the other on public land…

Feiden said the Planning Department determined that Kohl could build as many as seven single-family houses or 35 condominiums on his property. Instead, he is offering to sell it to the city for $690,000. Kohl said yesterday that he is glad that the land is being preserved.

“I’m as happy to see it not built as anything,” he said.

Benefits of Urban Wetlands and Their Buffer Areas
More pictures from [the forest off North Street] show its substantial natural beauty and mature trees–this is no urban brownfield. It includes numerous edge zones between wetland, forest and meadow. These edge zones, key areas of biodiversity, are threatened by Kohl’s 31-unit condo proposal, its attendant roads and parking spaces, and more generally by a proposed ordinance to reduce the buffer area around many of Northampton’s wetlands from 100 feet to as little as 10 feet…

Irony of Infill: You Have to Drive to Enjoy Nature
A key assumption built into infill is that walking access to amenities associated with civilization takes priority over walking access to nature. If developers are permitted to aggressively pave over green spaces downtown, more residents will be compelled to drive if they want to enjoy parks and woods. Most likely their overall time spent in ‘unbuilt’ environments will decrease.