I’d like to address some misconceptions voiced at the Feb. 12 Commissioners’ meeting regarding the Montezuma Land Conservancy.
A conservation easement does not necessarily give public access to the property unless the owner gives that land to a public entity: Hawkins Preserve and Geer Natural Area are examples of easement properties with public access.
Acquiring an Easement is a contract made between a private landowner and the Land Conservancy, as a way to keep the land’s rural characteristics in perpetuity and to allow the current and future owners to continue an agrarian lifestyle.
An attendee thought that easements can have detrimental effects on unsuspecting neighbors, however, because the land retains its rural characteristics and remains essentially unchanged.
But, just like with any private property, the owner still has some rights of development (regulated by the original document designed with the Conservancy).
Living next door to an easement is a benefit if you enjoy open space and farms. Counties and cities who value open space are lucky to have a local conservancy that supports farmers and ranchers to stay on their land and raise locally produced goods.
The concern that our county could become “landlocked” should private landowners continue to acquire easements was also expressed.
Yes, some subdivision opportunities would be “locked” out in perpetuity. But, in the same manner, subdivisions create their own “landlock” as well, by decreasing open, rural space in perpetuity.
Here on the West Slope, we see this mostly unrestricted development in many of our neighboring towns and cities. Together with the conservancy, easement landholders choose their own development restrictions, which never supersede those of the county.
Balancing growth with increased need of infrastructure (roads, bridges, schools, medical and emergency facilities, etc.) is a complicated venture. It is a process requiring time and consideration.
Moderate, deliberate development may be an unanticipated but welcome result of local conservation easements dotting our county, and knowing we will always have the opportunity to raise our own food, as well as sell it elsewhere, is worth a lot.
A healthy community is a diverse one and we are that!
I hope we continue to support private property rights in both directions: to those wanting to keep their acreage in production, as well as to those wishing to create smaller parcels. And, just like non-easement land, those under conservation easement are recorded in the public record.