Last week we praised a state-funded land deal that allowed a large dairy farm in the town of Saratoga to be protected forever from development through a conservation easement. But it’s not just farms that need protection. The countryside in the Capital Region is full of beautiful open space — fields, woods and rolling hills, with flowers and wildlife — that is threatened by development.
Fortunately, like farmers, there are some landowners who love their land, who want to keep it natural and preserve it for future generations. And there are nonprofit organizations whose mission is to help them do that through conservation easements.
One such organization is Saratoga PLAN, which just signed an agreement with a landowner that will turn 105 acres off Route 147 in Galway into a nature preserve. Another is the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, which just got a landowner in the town of Amsterdam to put a conservation easement in his deed protecting 118 acres overlooking the Mohawk Valley. In its 10 years of existence the conservancy has protected 2,700 acres in Albany and Schenectady counties, including a number of parcels in the spectacular Wolf’s Hollow area of Glenville, but this is its first easement in Montgomery County.
Conservation easements are a nice alternative — in many cases a preferred one — to purchase by a government or conservancy. For one thing they are cheaper, which means more land can be protected for the same amount of money. For another, they allow the land to still be used by the owner, for farming, forestry or some other productive purpose, and taxes to still be paid on it — albeit at lower rates because, with the development rights gone, its market value has been decreased.
In fact, even with lower taxes, even with payments from the conservation organization in some cases, even with the organization picking up the transaction fees involving the easement, the owners are typically giving up a lot of potential money in order to preserve their land. For that kind of selflessness, they deserve our thanks.