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Smart Growth: On Common Ground: Winter09


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Protecting the undeveloped countryside is still an important part of the smart growth equation. In this issue we turn our attention back to land conservation. At all scales — from establishing city …

Protecting the undeveloped countryside is still an important part of the smart growth equation. In this issue we turn our attention back to land conservation. At all scales — from establishing city parks to preserving farmland, from addressing sprawl in rural communities to protecting wilderness areas on public lands — providing and preserving open lands are vital to the health of communities and the environment.

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  • 1. REALTORS® & Smart Growth on common ground WINTER 2009 Voters Say Yes to Conservation Farmland Protection State Governments Take the Lead land conservation
  • 2. Smart Growth: Conserving Our Land In the eight years we have been publishing But protecting the undeveloped On Common Ground, we have reported countryside is still an important part on the evolution of smart growth and of the smart growth equation. In this its increased adoption throughout the issue we turn our attention back to country. While in the 1990s stopping land conservation. At all scales — from sprawl and protecting the countryside establishing city parks to preserving from development was a prime focus farmland, from addressing sprawl in rural of smart growth efforts, since 2000 communities to protecting wilderness smart growth has matured to embrace areas on public lands — providing walkable, mixed-use communities, and preserving open lands are vital transit-oriented development, green to the health of communities and the buildings and energy conservation. This environment. We highlight the activities focus on developing better communities of a wide range of parties, including that make better use of our resources is private corporations, nonprofit land an approach that is meeting the needs of trusts, all levels of government, and the marketplace while also helping us to REALTORS®, who are working together slow global climate change. to conserve our land resources for future generations. For more information on NAR and smart growth, go to For more information on NAR and Housing Opportunity, go to On Common Ground is published twice a year by the Community and Political Affairs division of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (NAR), and is distributed free of charge. The publication presents a wide range of views on smart growth issues, with the goal of encouraging a dialogue among REALTORS®, elected officials and other interested citizens. The opinions expressed in On Common Ground are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policy of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, its members or affiliate organizations. Editor Joseph R. Molinaro Managing Director, Smart Growth and Housing Opportunity NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® 500 New Jersey Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20001 Distribution For more copies of this issue or to be placed on our mailing list for future issues of On Common Ground, please contact Ted Wright, NAR, at (202) 383-1206 or 2 ON COMMON GROUND WINTER 2009
  • 3. On Common Ground Winter 2009 The Smart Growth of Rural Towns 4 by David Goldberg Voters Say Yes to Conservation Historically Americans Support Measures that Have a Tangible Result 8 by Gary Fineout State Government Takes a Lead in Open Space Preservation 12 by Heidi Johnson-Wright Everybody Loves a Park Green Space Is a Premium when Building, Buying or Selling 20 by Brad Broberg Land Trusts Preserving Our Natural Lands 26 by Steve Wright The Conservation Synergy Private Corporations Are Securing Open Space 36 by Christine Jordan Sexton A Cherry of a Deal Farmers Receive Much Needed Assistance to Protect Their Land 42 by John Van Gieson Protecting Our Nation’s Wildlands 48 by Judy Newman The Conservation Boom Better Conservation Opportunities Emerge from Lower Land Prices 56 by Steve Wright REALTORS® Take Action Making Smart Growth Happen 64 On Common Ground thanks the following contributors and organizations for photographs, illustrations and artist renderings reprinted in this issue: Charles W. Barrowclough, Martin County Parks & Recreation Department; Joelle Boros, Perry Rose, LLC; George Cofer, Hill Country Conservancy; Dave Dadurka, The Nature Conservancy; Donald Drysdale, State of California Department of Conservation; Shaun Fenlon, Maryland Department of Natural Resources; Christina Hailman, Friends of Patterson Park; Corean Hamlin, Asheville Board of REALTORS®; Linda Harrell, Coldwell Banker Commercial Saunders Real Estate; Gordon L. Hayward, Peninsula Township Planner; Barak Gale, Washington Wilderness Coalition; Jennifer Jay, Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy; Toni Kellar, the Wilds; Land for Maine’s Future; Kirt Manecke, LandChoices; Kit McGinnis, National Park Trust; Carrie Meek Gallagher, Suffolk County Department of Environment and Energy; Jennifer Morrill, American Farmland Trust; Kenneth E. Murray, California Farmland Conservancy Program; Gary E. Nichols, Park County, Colorado; Carl Palmer, Beartooth Capital Partners; Cynthia W. Satterfield, Tar River Land Conservancy; Heather Saucier, Harris County Flood Control District; Dean Saunders, Coldwell Banker Commercial Saunders Real Estate; Stuart Sirota, TND Planning Group; Clark Stevens, New West Land Company, Inc.; Ron Young, Phoenix Parks Development Division; and U.S. Sugar Corporation. 3
  • 4. THE SMART GROWTH Located in Bethel Township, Pa., Garnet Oaks contains 80 homes on 58 acres and preserves 51 percent of the land as open space. Courtesy of Randall Arendt and LandChoices By David Goldberg OF RURAL TOWNS T he rural township of Rhinebeck, N.Y., had tion could double in size “overnight.” Some landowners, gotten the message on Smart Growth. With meanwhile, complained that their land had been deval- development creeping up the Hudson River ued by the down-zoning. from New York City, 90 miles away, the Those complaints are the almost inevitable result of ef- township, four years ago, embarked on an forts to grow rural towns by adding contiguous develop- effort to plan for the inevitable growth in a ment and preserving the surrounding countryside, con- way that would prevent it from chewing up the 2,000 tends Randall Arendt, a land planner and author known acres of unspoiled green buffering the village of Rhine- for advocating conservation design. “You run into the beck and an unincorporated hamlet on the river. problem of ‘wipeouts and windfalls’,” Arendt says. “The The concept that emerged would have required most owner whose land gets designated for growth nodes gets of the expected growth to hug the existing hamlet, al- an instant windfall, while others see the potential to de- lowing for mixed use near the center and about 200 velop their property wiped out.” small residential lots. The surrounding land meanwhile, For years, these very issues have hampered many rural would be down-zoned from one house per five acres to communities in their efforts to prevent urban sprawl one per 20. from sucking the vitality of their downtowns, chewing “Philosophically, it may have made sense,” says David up farmland and undermining the viability of agricul- Anthone, an architect who at the time was chairman of ture, marring treasured landscapes and chasing wildlife the hamlet of Rhinecliff. “The only trouble was that it out of their habitat (and often into town). Despite was impractical.” growing concerns around the country, only one state, Oregon, has taken the dramatic step of imposing a state- The most immediate challenges to the plan were politi- wide solution, requiring cities to establish urban growth cal: Residents of the hamlet, part of the nation’s largest boundaries and designating farm and forest zones that historic district and a place that had changed slowly over are off-limits to development. many generations, reacted in horror that their popula- 4 ON COMMON GROUND WINTER 2009
  • 5. In recent years, however, a number of highly motivated Developer Carl Wright hired a new urbanist master communities, as well as developers and property own- planner to develop plans for Kennedyville, Md. ers, around the country have been experimenting with After community feedback, the final design innovative solutions that help towns grow in healthier incorporated a corner store and duplexes. ways while preserving important lands. Communities in rural America can be roughly divided into three categories: Those that are holding their own in terms of population and are changing very little; those that are spreading out evenly with zero or nega- tive population growth, hollowing themselves out, in essence; and those that are exploding, in relative terms, because they are within a lengthy commute of a major metro area. Kent County, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, falls into that last category. Development pressures from the Washington-Baltimore region in the last several years have pushed into the pastoral, scenic area, leading the county to adopt growth-management measures. Those measures were put to the test in 2004 when developer Carl Wright obtained an option on 25 acres adjacent to Kennedyville, an unincorporated village of 150 outside of Chestertown, says Stuart Sirota, a new urbanist mas- ter planner hired by the developer to shepherd a devel- opment plan into existence. “The county’s comprehensive plan called for contiguous development outside of Kennedyville, which was in a priority-growth area,” a state designation that makes an area eligible for infrastructure and other subsidies, Sirota recalls. “But that didn’t mean the community was ready for it.” Sirota was inspired by the opportunity to expand on the historic pattern and character of the village, rather than the opportunity to shape the new neighborhood to ad- create a cookie-cutter subdivision. He recognized, how- dress their desires and concerns. ever, that the scale of the change — though relatively “We had to learn together at every step about the trade- small by metropolitan standards — would be alarming offs you have to make,” Sirota says. “For example, they to residents. He began by holding a charrette, or design wanted to ensure that people who live there could actu- workshop, over three days that was open to the collabo- ally buy there. They didn’t want it just to be an exclusive, ration of every one of the community’s 150 residents. second-home kind of place. People didn’t want sprawl, “We did face extreme opposition at first from people but they resisted anything that wasn’t a single-family who thought this was too much, too fast. They didn’t house. They wanted affordable, but they wanted large want to lose the quality of the place they had,” Sirota houses that were on large lots, because they thought that says. Most recognized, however, that they could not stop would ensure stable residents. Townhomes, which are all development in their area. The charrette gave them more affordable, to them were an invitation to crime.” 5
  • 6. Tryon Farm is a conservation subdivision in northwest Indiana. This 40-acre field is farmed and permanently preserved. The preserved barn is enjoyed by the residents. Photos courtesy of LandChoices The ultimate design, rendered after several iterations of Officials often express a desire to preserve their land- feedback from the community, envisioned a pocket park scapes and working farms, but then adopt zoning that open to all, a corner shop where the land met the state mandates subdivisions with equal sized lots, or lots that highway, and plans for “semi-detached” duplexes that are too large for clustering. Some, of course, have no looked like a single house. zoning at all, so adopting land-use regulations often “When we started we had people yelling at us, and at the must be the hard-won step one. end the same people stood up and applauded,” Sirota To help visual learners, Manecke carries a card show- said. “They thanked us for listening and working with ing a “cookie-cutter” subdivision — in which all of them, even though they didn’t like absolutely everything a given parcel of land is carved into equal-sized lots about what we were planning.” — along side a conservation subdivision, where homes But the struggles to create a compatible development are grouped in nodes according to topography, leaving for the rural area didn’t end there. After the approvals most of the land open. “I’ve never had anyone point to were secured, which took about a year, the developer the cookie-cutter subdivision and say, ‘That’s where I began working with a national builder, who pushed for want to live.’ They always want to pick the conservation higher prices and seemed to misread the market, Sirota subdivision. And the developers are learning that you said. When that builder pulled out, the developer found can build the same number of houses, but save money a more local builder, who scaled back the prices and be- on the land clearing.” gan selling homes, even as the market was entering the After finding some success promoting the model around current slump. “Even though not much is selling in the his home of Farmington Hills, Manecke has launched county, it’s doing fairly well,” Sirota said. a national campaign dubbed “Supersize My Backyard,” The trouble with planning in rural areas is that most which he hopes will lure more citizens into advocating communities have very limited resources, said Kirt for design that preserves 50 percent or more of rural Manecke, a former salesman who started a group called lands. He stresses that, in order to save meaningful wild- Land Choices to advocate for conservation design in his life habitat, “what we really want to see is linking the home state of Michigan. contiguous swaths of preserved land.” “The people we work with are the nice people who are “I might be idealistic but I think, gosh, you know, in 50 volunteer planners,” says Manecke. “They are a plumber or 100 years we might not have any of this stuff if we by day and a planning commissioner by night. We try don’t do something like this.” to help them understand a lot of these issues, because all this stuff is foreign to them.” 6 ON COMMON GROUND
  • 7. Top photo: Landowners turned down a developer’s proposal that would have destroyed the 50-acre orchard on this 120-acre property named The Ponds at Woodward in Pennsylvania. Developers received a 62 percent greater return by preserving the orchard in In Rhinebeck, meanwhile, landowners, citizens and lo- a conservation design subdivision with 57 homes. As a result, two-thirds of the property has been permanently cal officials are still working out the kinks in an alterna- protected, including 10 acres of mature woodlands tive plan with the help of Arendt, who was hired by the and a working orchard (producing apples and peaches) landowners to offer a workable solution. encompassing more than 50 acres. “As we were driving to the area I said, ‘I am in favor Bottom photo: Trim’s Ridge in Rhode Island is a 10-acre conservation design subdivision, located of building right next to existing population centers,’” in New Harbor, New Shoreham, R.I., which protects Arendt recalls. “But then I walked the land and saw the three-fourths of the site as open space. steep slopes, a working lumber yard within the planned ‘node’ and the drainage issues. It was simply unsuited to a traditional neighborhood development. On paper it Photos courtesy of Randall Arendt and LandChoices looked terrific, but when you got below the surface there were problems. I said if you want to do Smart Growth, let’s do something we can do.” Working with five area landowners and local citizens, Arendt devised a plan to group the 200 units in pockets on 15 percent of their land while preserving the rest. The owners of property that remained undeveloped would sell, or “transfer”, their development rights to those whose land on which was built. “At first the town only saw us as being NIMBY,” or Not in My Backyard, Anthone recalls. “But when you looked at it from a practical perspective, there was no developer who was going to build on those slopes, with the wet- lands and streams draining to the Hudson.” While the 20-acre zonings would merely have created “large-lot sprawl”, the new plan “protects special view- sheds and watersheds, as well as the hamlet and our historic district, and allows for growth,” Anthone says. The planning is ongoing because the transfer of devel- opments rights can be tricky, and the town is working to ensure moderate and affordable housing, because “we don’t want to be just the place you commute to the city from,” Anthone says. As for the key lesson learned: “You can’t just say you don’t want something without an alternative plan that is viable, because the alternative could be much worse.”  David A. Goldberg is the communications director for Smart Growth America, a nationwide coalition based in Washington, D.C. that advocates for land- use policy reform. In 2002, Mr. Goldberg was award- ed a Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University, where he studied urban policy. WINTER 2009 7
  • 8. Vo t e r s S a y Ye s to Conser vation Historically Americans Support Measures That Have A Tangible Result By Gary Fineout A desert mountain preserve in Phoenix. A community park in northern Georgia. Farms in the state of Maine. Across the country American voters have embraced the idea of paying more to preserve open spaces, keep farmland intact, expand parks and acquire environmentally fragile pieces of property. During the last 20 years, more than 2,100 ballot mea- sures at the city, county and state level have gone before voters, according to a database maintained by the non- Unique to profit Trust for Public Land, and more than 1,600 were the Sonoran given a yes vote. Desert, the While some ballot measures had other items — such as Saguaro Cactus can be seen road construction projects — included with them, the for miles in Trust for Public Land says the total amount of money Phoenix, Ariz. dedicated to conservation alone during that time period Courtesy of Phoenix Parks Development Division is a staggering $46.8 billion. Voters from Maine all the way to Hawaii have approved Voters from Maine all the way to the measures, which have utilized a variety of different Hawaii have approved measures, funding mechanisms, from dedicated property taxes, increased sales taxes, bonds and even a portion of lot- which have utilized a variety of different funding mechanisms. 8 ON COMMON GROUND WINTER 2009
  • 9. Photo courtesy of Phoenix Parks Development Division “As a REALTOR®, I think open space helps the quality of life. We need to find a way to make that open space a reality.” tery ticket sales. Only five states — Indiana, Kentucky, 1998 as well as four bond measures in California total- North Dakota, South Dakota and West Virginia — ing more than $7 billion that have been approved since have not had a conservation measure go before voters. 2000. Voters in Forsyth County, Georgia — located And measures have been approved in 43 of the 45 states north of Atlanta — approved a $100 million initiative where they reached the ballot. in February, while voters in Phoenix, Arizona, approved Will Abberger, associate director of conservation finance a $900 million measure this past May. for the Trust for Public Land, says the success rate of the Peggy Neely, a REALTOR® and vice mayor of the city of initiatives shows that Americans are willing to pay more Phoenix, said she supported the Phoenix Parks and Pre- for something that has a tangible, visible benefit. serve Initiative because creating additional open spaces “Any time you are talking about a tax increase, which is a must for growing communities. most of them are, that’s hard for people, especially in the “As a REALTOR®, I think open space helps the quality economic climate we’re in,” said Abberger, who works on of life,” said Neely, who owns Arizona Home Team and initiatives in the eastern United States. “But Americans has been in the real estate business since 1990. “We need are willing to increase their taxes if they know it’s going to find a way to make that open space a reality.” to be spent on something reasonable, like land conversa- Neely pointed out that the Phoenix Parks and Preserve tion. When people can actually see the benefit of what Initiative — which dedicated one-tenth of one percent they are doing, they are willing to vote for this.” sales tax to purchase land for preservation and construct What started out as just a trickle in 1988 has turned into neighborhood parks — was first approved in 1999. The a torrent. While there was an estimated 24 measures on money has been used to add 3,700 acres to the Phoenix the ballot 20 years ago, the number has skyrocketed in Sonoran Preserve, build six regional parks and make recent years. Each of the last two presidential election improvements to 160 neighborhood parks. Voters this years has featured more than 200 initiatives. year were asked to extend the tax for another 30 years, Some of the largest approved measures include a $2.94 a move that will help the community accelerate its pres- billion bond referendum approved in New Jersey back in ervation efforts. 9
  • 10. Neely said boosting land acquisition efforts were needed for parks and open space was defeated in June after it because of escalating land prices in the Phoenix area. failed to get a required yes vote from two-thirds of vot- She said other efforts to create open space — such as ers. A similar measure in that county had been defeated density transfers — had proven to be unwieldy. in 2006. “We needed to go ahead and find a mechanism to make The measure in Minnesota, which adds three-eighths of it work,” said Neely. one percent increase in the state sales tax for the next Nationwide, so far in 2008 a total of 25 measures have 25 years, is also controversial and has drawn opposition been already approved and nearly 80 more will be decid- from the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce which says ed this fall, including a statewide initiative in Minnesota businesses in that state cannot afford another tax. that would dedicate some $5.5 billion for parks, trails Ken Martin, the campaign director of Yes for Minne- and wildlife habitat and watershed protection. sota campaign, remains confident that the measure will “I think this year will be comparable to other general pass. The amendment is backed by a coalition that election years in terms of ballot activity,” said Abberger, includes hunting and fishing organizations as well as who said that three out of every four initiatives are environmental groups. approved by voters. “I think Minnesotans over time have shown that they But not every initiative is a winner. A $401 million are willing to invest in things that are priorities in measure in San Mateo County in California that called this state,” said Martin publicly at the time the group for a one-eighth cent sales tax hike for 25 years to pay launched its campaign in favor of the amendment. Photo courtesy of Phoenix Parks Development Division People are worried about losing their legacy. They are tied to the land. 10 ON COMMON GROUND
  • 11. It’s important for us to grow better over the next 10 million people than we did the last 10 million. While the initiatives tracked by the Trust for Public encourage farmers and others to maintain their land Land call for dedicating money for land conversation, a the way it is now, argued Eric Draper from Audubon constitutional amendment on the ballot in Florida calls of Florida. for a cheaper way to preserve property. Voters will be “This could result in a tremendous private effort,” asked this fall to grant a permanent property tax break said Draper. to landowners who agree to place a conservation ease- ment on their property. So instead of having govern- Eric Gorsegner, assistant director of the Sun Corridor ment buy the property, the landowner is instead given a Legacy Program with the Sonoran Institute in Arizona, financial incentive to keep it undeveloped. predicts that land conservation measures will continue to be popular with voters who want to see parts of their The amendment has won the backing of environmental heritage preserved. He said the Phoenix initiative has groups and business organizations who called it a “bal- enabled the city to keep undeveloped mountain land ance between economic growth and environmental that now is viewed as a hallmark for the community, in stewardship.” the same way that the Golden Gate Bridge is the hall- “It’s important for us to grow better over the next mark for San Francisco. 10 million people than we did the last 10 million, “Even in these rough times, this is an enduring issue,” said otherwise there won’t be a Florida to pass on to the next Gorsegner, who was once worked on behalf of the Phoenix generation,” said Adam Babington, legislative counsel Association of REALTORS®. “People are worried about for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. losing their legacy. They are tied to the land.”  The measure would also direct the Florida Legislature Gary Fineout is an award-winning journal- to pass a greenbelt law that would guarantee that land- ist who covered politics and government for owners would pay property taxes based on existing use nearly 20 years. He previously worked in the Tallahassee bureau of The Miami Herald and his instead of “highest and best use.” That practice could work has also appeared in The New York Times and several other Florida newspapers. He is now an independent journalist. WINTER 2009 11
  • 12. State government takes a lead in open space preservation By Heidi Johnson-Wright P reserving the Atlantic Coastal States from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, hundreds The tourists and retirees came to Florida in of miles of pristine sandy coastline, thick citrus groves and droves, lured by sunny days and year-round dense forest, plus an ecosystem unique to the world — a warmth. Then the young families, military river of grass and gators known as the Everglades. folks, immigrants and frozen northerners But when tens of millions of people choose to live in came by the millions to stake their Sun- a wild peninsula of a state, the ravenous demand for shine State claim in the prime of their lives. waterfront condos and inland suburban dwellings cre- The incredible population growth was fueled by people ates an inevitable clash between the people and the very creating new lives in an enchanting land of sparkling waters environment that enticed them to leave the snow of the north for Florida’s natural charms. In order to meet these demands while preserving its open space, the state created Florida Forever — a fund that can be used for buying sensitive lands for conservation. Florida Forever is one of the best-known efforts among states that are putting their land preservation money where their mouth is — even in tough economic times that are creating billion-dollar budget deficits. The Presumpscot River located in Southern Maine’s Cumberland County. 12 ON COMMON GROUND
  • 13. The use of conservation easement options in Florida has successfully protected millions of acres of wildlife habitat and open space, keeping land in private hands and generating significant public benefits. Around the nation, state governments are realizing that quality of life requires a delicate balance between land development and land conservation. Around the nation, state governments are realizing that quality of life requires a delicate balance between land development and land conservation. And just like they make master plans and budgets for roads, transit, commerce and housing, they are com- mitting large sums of public dollars and government resources toward protecting unique and pristine lands. The Florida Forever program was recently extended through the year 2020, to provide $300 million per year for land conservation. “Florida continues to demonstrate a commitment to preserving the natural, cultural and historical resources that make the state so unique,” said Michael W. Sole, Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. “The state Legislature recently extended our most important land conservation tool, the Florida For- ever program, another 10 years. Through this program, the largest in the nation, and its predecessor, more than two million acres of Florida’s vital lands, valuable wa- terways and springs have been preserved, and habitat has been protected for countless numbers of Florida’s natural plant and animal species.” 13
  • 14. From Florida to Maine On the other end of the Atlantic coast, Land for Maine’s and landowner wanted to maintain one of the area’s last Future (LMF) is a state agency that funds numerous working farms, but the landowner could not afford to success stories in its state. donate the property. LMF and federal funding, along with a generous bargain sale of a conservation easement, • The Downeast Lakes Forestry Partnership is a project led to the protection of the farm. initiated by sporting camp owners, guides and crafts- men who sought to protect the land base that provided • The Fuller Farm is a mix of hayfields, grasslands and for their livelihood. Centered in and around Grand woodlands that slope down to the Nonesuch River in Lake Stream in Downeast Maine, this effort has now Scarborough, Maine. The 180-acre tract protects every- conserved more than 342,000 acres. The lakes and rivers thing from moose to mink to meadowlarks. It also hosts that form the core assets of the region are now largely skiing and a snowmobile trail. It almost became a subdi- conserved, but lands remain in the traditional develop- vision of two-acre house lots, but the owners sold it for ment centers for activity that supports the traditional less than appraised value to the Scarborough Land Con- economies of the region. servation Trust, which was supported by a loan from the Trust for Public land and funding from LMF. Photo left: Members of the Scarborough Land Conservation Trust celebrate the protection of the Fuller Farm with a special dedication to the community. Photo right: Jordans Farm has been a local favorite of Cape Elizabeth, Maine residents to pick up fresh farm vegetables for more than 60 years. Landowners see the need for “Outright donations of conservation lands continue to permanent conservation of be a significant part of Maine’s conservation scene, and I understand this to be true in many other states,” said our natural heritage. Tim Glidden, director of Land for Maine’s Future. “I believe the principal motivation continues to be altru- • The Maine Huts and Trail system will eventually istic. However, it is also true that we are witnessing a connect two of Maine’s premier tourism centers: the massive, generational transfer of accumulated wealth in Moosehead Lake area to Bethel in western Maine. The this country and many landowners see both the need for trail system not only adds a recreation asset, but also is permanent conservation of our natural heritage and the expected to generate substantial economic activity such opportunity for significant tax benefits. Recent changes as second homes and resorts. in tax law have been particularly important for the do- • The Jordan Farm project in Cape Elizabeth is an nation of permanent conservation easements.” example of land conservation co-existing with and complementing residential development. The town 14 ON COMMON GROUND
  • 15. Every state in the union should make land conservation a priority because of the vast benefits. Maryland’s Rural Legacy Program provides the focus and funding necessary to protect large, contiguous tracts of land and other strategic areas from devel- opment and to enhance natural resource, agricultural, forestry and environmental protection through cooperative efforts among state and local governments and land trusts. Above: Garrett County, Md. Left: Potomac River Maryland’s Early Conservation Efforts Maryland, including the Chesapeake Bay, would look The state of Maryland can boast that it is enter- like in the year 2050 if we hadn’t ever done any land con- ing its fifth decade of dedicating resources to land servation starting in the late 1960s and hadn’t continued conservation. Various state agencies and initiatives have doing it in a focused way over the next 42 years.” protected nearly 400,000 acres. Fenlon said every state in the union should make land con- Shaun Fenlon, director of Land Acquisition and servation a priority because of the vast benefits including Planning for the Maryland Department of Natural better water and air quality; additional natural recreational Resources, estimates that he has participated in at least sites; Smart Growth planning, which discourages sprawl; 200 conservation easement deals where a landowner locally produced food and fiber to support our nation’s is paid to permanently protect his property from demand without being affected by global markets; and the harmful development. moral imperative of preserving land for future generations. “There are a lot of benefits from land conservation,” he said. “What I’ve said to some people is to imagine what WINTER 2009 15
  • 16. Hawaii’s Pristine Lands vation easement transaction in the state of Hawaii’s his- On Hawaii’s Big Island, the 24,000-acre Kealakekua tory, involving nearly 9,000 acres, $4 million in federal Heritage Ranch in Kona was once slated for intense Forest Legacy funding, and more than $12 million value development with 500 houses. in donation, for a total expected value of more than $16 million,” said Laura H. Thielen, chairperson of the But working with state officials, a land trust and an Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, a architect-planner with a vision for sustainability, the state agency. ranch-owning Pace family was able to create a land- mark conservation deal that will protect almost all the Stevens, the designer of the Kealakekua Heritage Ranch- pristine property. Hokukano Preserve, said the final project will have 96 percent protected open space for orchards, pasture and “The Pace family had a different vision,” said Greg Hen- native forest — including all of the areas above 4,000 drickson, ranch manager and an attorney with expertise feet in elevation, “which is the critical line for survival in conservation easements. “The family is committed of native bird species as it is above the avian malaria to protecting this land from the kind of development elevation.” planned for it prior to their purchase, and is instead interested in maintaining this ranch as working lands.” The one-of-a-kind conservation development also will feature hundreds of miles of trails remaining from his- The result will be development of 200 to 250 private toric logging and current grazing in the forest areas. “The inhabitation compounds in average of four-acre enclo- project is planned to be off the grid, with rebates off of sures, with the balance of a homeowner’s 20-acre deeded the price of the lot going to those who employ alternative lot being leased to the public for a recreational and agricul- energy and certified sustainable construction materials tural common area, according to architect Clark Stevens. and techniques in a point system similar to the LEED “The acquisition of this conservation easement on Keal- approach,” said Stevens, stressing that even the fraction of akekua Heritage Ranch will be the largest single conser- developed lands will be very green and sustainable. 16 ON COMMON GROUND
  • 17. Thielen praised the Pace family and landowners who are beginning to understand that there are land use options that will allow them to keep their land and continue Map: The New West Land Company has a comprehensive producing income from it — as well as gain long-term conservation land use plan for both Hokukano and tax benefits and reduced property taxes. Kealakekua Ranches in Hawaii. “In the short-term, the successful completion of a conservation easement for Kealakekua Heritage Ranch strengthens the state’s credibility to complete large con- servation easement transactions,” said Thielen. “Con- servation easements support our economy, preserve ecosystems and products communities need to flourish and protect our cultural values for future generations. Kealakekua Heritage Ranch is a Hawaiian example of finding common ground between conservation and working lands.” Jean Murphy, past president of the Hawaii Association of REALTORS® and still an active REALTOR® with Clark Realty on the Big Island, has preached the value of open space, preserved view corridors and conserved natural areas throughout her 46 years of working on property development in the real estate profession. “The vistas (in Hawaii) are so beautiful and when you Conservation easements support our look down and see those hills are not changed, that the land is kept natural in perpetuity — it gives you a good economy, preserve ecosystems and feeling,” she said. products communities need to flourish In the mid-1980s, Murphy was working with a devel- oper during a tough real estate market. and protect our cultural values for “The developer wanted to put in more condos, but I future generations. suggested a golf course — which substitutes for open space some time,” she recalled. “I mailed 10,000 people and asked them whether they would want to be next to more condos or in a residential community with mini- mum 15,000-square-foot lots with unspoiled vistas. Ninety-eight percent said they preferred to buy a house with views from on and above a golf course.” Murphy’s land conservation poll received an amazing four percent return rate and helped shape a future of preservation at Kona’s Keauhou Resort. “The people’s vote was followed and 135 lots sold out in three years. The home values have remained high; we recently had a resale for $1.8 million,” she said. Murphy also worked to preserve ocean views on the Kona- Kohala Coast on the western side of the Big Island. WINTER 2009 17
  • 18. major historical sites have been restored on the grounds: the Lekeleke Burial Grounds and the birthplace of Kamehameha III, Hawaii’s longest-reigning monarch. An Example for the Nation Back in Florida, the state hopes to soon close a historic deal that would purchase 187,000 acres (three times the size of the city of Orlando) of sugar cane growing land from U.S. Sugar. The $1.75 billion purchase would be made by the state’s South Florida Water Management District, and used to support the federal government’s $10 billion Everglades restoration project. The largest conservation purchase in state history would use some of the land for a series of reservoirs and pollution filtering areas that would restore the flow of water between Lake Okeechobee and Ever- glades National Park. (See additional details on page 40 of the Conservation Synergy article.) “The possible acquisition of the land and assets of Unit- ed States Sugar has huge potential for the restoration of America’s Everglades,” said Sole. “If we do acquire these tracts of land, it would give us the chance to store and A stalled development had built a seven-story, concrete clean water on a scale we never thought possible, allow- building right on the water’s edge. Murphy came on ing us to better manage water critical for the restoration board in 1990 to help a developer revive the project. of our treasured River of Grass, as well as protect our “I told them to tear down that seven-story concrete coastal estuaries.” monstrosity,” she said. U.S. Sugar’s 77-year-old cane operation would shut The result was the Resort at Hualalai, a world-renown, down in about six years. But more than 100,000 acres of low-rise development of homes, villas, championship state-purchased lands could be turned back to farming. golf courses, spa and the five diamond Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. The scenic Pal Mar contains 13,330 acres Murphy also has worked on master plans for developments of conservation land of the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estate, a trust that owns protected in Martin one-eighth of the land in Hawaii. Created from the will of County, Fla. Bishop — the last royal princess of the Hawaiian Islands — the multibillion dollar trust funds the Kamehameha Schools, a private, co-educational college preparatory institution with several campuses across the islands. Murphy is well-aware of the delicate balance between developing land to fund the historic schools founded in 1887 and the need to preserve archaeological sites on the ancestral lands. The Keauhou Resort’s charter and a cultural advisory committee ensure that future development is culturally correct and restoration of historic sites is a priority. Two 18 ON COMMON GROUND
  • 19. Florida Forever helps to lower the cost per home for developers by moving imperiled species. Forever has obvious benefits when it comes to preserving the environment, but it also makes it economically feasible to live and work in Florida.” Cory said Florida Forever has been instrumental in protecting imperiled species such as the gopher tortoise and panthers. “[The program] helps to lower the cost per home for This urban stormwater retrofit in Martin County, Fla., is designed to mitigate erosive flows, reduce developers by moving imperiled species to protected pollutants in stormwater runoff and promote areas and creating sites for alternative water supply conditions for improved aquatic habitat. programs,” she explained. “It’s also about finding lands for alternative water supply programs — not huge, ugly desalinization plants, but things like reservoirs.” Keyna Cory, a principal in Public Affairs Consultants and chief lobbyist for Associated Industries of Florida, Cory said no one in the business community wants to said many people forget the strong economic benefits see a totally blacktopped Florida. of conservation. “The Florida Forever project is a unique situation “Florida Forever isn’t just about preserving land but also is because it’s the first time businesses and conservationists about better land management and addressing problems worked arm and arm to work together on a bill like this,” of invasive plant species that can ruin land. It is about pro- she said.  tecting land, wildlife and access to waterways,” she said. Heidi Johnson-Wright frequently writes about Smart “Without access to waterways and things like boat ramps, Growth and sustainable communities. She and her Florida’s marine industry is adversely affected. Florida husband live in a restored historic home in the heart of Miami’s Little Havana. Contact her at: hjohnsonw WINTER 2009 19
  • 20. Everybody Loves a Park Green Space Is a Premium when Building, Buying or Selling By Brad Broberg H undreds of homeowners can lay claim Parks help make neighborhoods to Baltimore’s best back yard. That’s because it’s not really a back yard. It’s more valuable. Patterson Park. A decade ago, the neighborhoods sur- rounding the park were in decline. So was the 137-acre park. “It was in pretty bad shape,” said Chris Ryer, president and CEO of the South East Community Development Corporation (SECDC) in Baltimore. Not anymore. When the SECDC and other community organizations launched a neighborhood revitalization campaign, their strategy revolved around improving Patterson Park. A new group, the Friends of Patterson Park, raised money, recruited volunteers and ultimately convinced the city to create a master plan to overhaul the park. While many of the plan’s recommendations remain to be carried out, many have been completed, including cleaning up a lake, restoring a historic pagoda, renovat- Patterson Park in Baltimore, Md. ing a swimming pool and stepping up maintenance. “It’s a very attractive park now,” Ryer said. How attractive? A community development organiza- tion bought several hundred homes around the park, renovated them and then used the park as a marketing tool, said Ryer. After paying as little as $60,000, the organization is selling the homes for up to $200,000 — with some that directly border the park going for $300-$400,000. The park’s Web site proudly proclaims Patterson Park as “the best back yard in Baltimore.” Ryer calls it a “classic example” of the power of parks to help make neighbor- hoods more valuable — especially where development is dense. 20 ON COMMON GROUND WINTER 2009
  • 21. The premium for homes bordering a park can start at 20 percent and extends to homes within three blocks at a gradually declining rate. Harnick doesn’t buy the argument that dense develop- ment around a park sullies its beauty. Putting parks in heavily populated neighborhoods enables more people to walk to them instead of drive — another principle of Smart Growth. “It’s a little counter-intuitive, but you want green space “If you have large estates surrounding a park, you have in a high-density area,” he said. “The green space is what a smaller population (with easy access to) the park,” he allows the density to happen. Patterson Park is a great said. “The more people you pull up tight to the park … example of that because there is nothing denser than the more people you have who will use the park and the southeast Baltimore. It’s street after street of row houses more benefit you get from the park.” as far as the eye can see.” Increased property values are often among those benefits That strategy — balancing the yin of green space — a fact confirmed by more than a dozen studies, said against the yang of greater density — is a cornerstone of John Crompton, a professor in the Recreation, Park and Smart Growth. Tourism Sciences at Texas A & M University. Smart Growth encourages compact development as an Crompton is the author of “The Proximate Principle: antidote to sprawl. Preserving green space is part and The Impact of Parks, Open Space and Water Features parcel to that approach. The green space makes the on Residential Property Values and the Property Tax density more palatable and the density makes the green Base.” His conclusion: the premium for homes border- space more desirable. ing a park can start at 20 percent and extends to homes “I’m a fan of density around parks,” said Peter Harnick within three blocks at a gradually declining rate. of the Trust for Public Land. 21
  • 22. Thanks to the number-crunching muscle of computers, Now, everything old is new again and the argument that’s more than an educated guess. It’s a scientific ob- that parks make nearby real estate more valuable is once servation. Yet it was known — and put to use — more more part of the rationale behind their development. than a century ago. Smart Growth — with its focus on urban infill versus “If you look at the history of the parks movement, the suburban sprawl — is a big reason why. rationale in those early days for parks was that they gen- Example: Highlands’ Garden Village, a 27-acre urban erated premiums for real estate,” Crompton said. infill project in Denver that dedicated a quarter of Crompton browses the archives of every city he visits. the site to green space. “There are parks and gardens “When you look up how their park systems evolved, you see real estate interests coming forward,” he said. “They The argument that parks make drove the early park systems.” nearby real estate more valuable That changed after World War II, said Crompton. Sub- urbia gave homeowners their own green spaces. Parks, is once more part of the rationale so desirable in urban settings, were no longer viewed in behind their development. terms of their potential to boost property values. Living 10 minutes from downtown Denver, Highland Park residents value the common park and garden areas, which provide premium open space near the city. 22 ON COMMON GROUND
  • 23. Highlands’ Garden Village everywhere within the project,” said Jonathan Rose, co- is a pedestrian-friendly, developer of the mixed-use community. mixed-use, mixed-income redevelopment on a historic Parks are “tremendous value creators,” Rose said. “It’s abandoned amusement always been recognized by some, but I think it’s becom- park in Denver, Colo. ing more broadly recognized because the consumer wants it.” Citing a theory known as biophilia, Rose said humans are “biologically designed” to appreciate nature. Trans- lated into practical terms: “The consumer responds Parks are tremendous value strongly to open space.” creators … it’s becoming more Rose finds it “entirely counter-intuitive” that measures to save green space are often opposed by the local real broadly recognized because the estate community. “I guess the inference is that … pre- consumer still wants it. serving land means less land to develop,” he said. That may be true, said Rose, but the loss of land is offset by the value green space adds to nearby homes and the dol- lars it adds to real estate transactions. The Trust for Pubic Land recently analyzed the benefits Philadelphia derives from its park system. The study concluded that parks increased adjacent property values by a combined $688.8 million in 2007 and generated an additional $181.1 million in property taxes for the city. When it comes to adding value, not all parks are created equal. “Value is made up of a little bit of a lot of things,” Harnick said. The two biggest drivers: distance from the park and the quality of the park. WINTER 2009 23
  • 24. Crompton’s rule of thumb calculates the added value at 20 percent for homes abutting or fronting a park, 10 percent for homes one block away and 5 percent for homes two blocks away. Size does matter, though, and large parks may add greater value over greater distances than small ones, he said. Much hinges on the park itself. “It depends on how good the park is as a neighbor,” Harnick said. Passive parks — also referred to as ornamental parks — almost always add more value than active ones. In fact, the lights, noise and traffic associated with sports fields can actually lower the value of homes near active parks, said Crompton. Likewise, a neglected or unsafe passive park can also drive down values. One way to gauge the value of green space is to look at property values in golf course communities. Only one in five households in golf course communities includes someone who plays golf, yet people pay a 30- to 50-percent premium to live there, said Crompton. Image is one reason. The other? “It’s the view,” Crompton said. “It’s the green space.” Like anything else, the value added by green space is a function of supply and demand. “I don’t think an ornamental park in a rural area does anything for property values because you’re drowning in green space anyway,” Harnick said. “You sort of need a tight urban fabric for an ornamental park to work.” Rose, on the other hand, thinks even parks in rural settings add at least some value. “They create a social fabric for the community,” he said. “People don’t picnic on their own land.” Parks create a social fabric for the community. 24 ON COMMON GROUND
  • 25. Chattanooga celebrates the opening of Demand for parks will always provide a its 21st Century waterfront along the Tennessee River. driving force in the real estate market. Still, it makes sense that urban residents would regard green space as especially precious. Consider the reac- much interest in them suggests they’re willing to pay tion of downtown San Diego residents when the city more to live nearby, she said. adopted a new plan that boosted density. Another example in Chattanooga, the development of “We expected pushback on the density issue, but we Coolidge Park along the Tennessee River helped revive never got it,” said Alexandra Elias, former advance plan- the dying North Shore commercial district by becom- ning manager for the Centre City Development Cor- ing a magnet, said Chad Wamack, a REALTOR® with poration, a nonprofit agency spearheading downtown Grubb & Ellis/Hudson Companies. redevelopment. “People just wanted the amenities that went with it, most of which were parks.” “It was sort of a depressed area (but) it’s just thriving today, even in our slowing economy,” he said. “At the The city obliged by including six new parks in the same time, the residential areas that surround the North downtown plan. “The parks became the centerpiece for Shore district have experienced huge (appreciation).” the redevelopment of downtown to meet growth in the future,” Elias said. If history continues down the same path, demand for parks will always provide a driving force in the real Currently in various stages of progress, the parks are estate market.  situated so that every downtown resident is within a Brad Broberg is a Seattle-based freelance writer spe- five-minute walk of at least one of them. While Elias cializing in business and development issues. His work can’t point to any evidence that the parks are boosting appears regularly in the Puget Sound Business Jour- property values, the fact that residents expressed so nal and the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce. WINTER 2009 25
  • 26. LAND TRUSTS New River Gorge, West Virginia PRESERVING OUR N AT U R A L L A N D S By Steve Wright West Virginia’s New River Gorge, world renowned for its white-water rafting and scenic views, is one of the most popular natural areas in all of Middle America. More than 1,700 land trusts in Any government agency on earth would just about leap off a gorge’s cliffs to add thousands of acres of preserved America work with federal, state land to a famed wild and wonderful river. and local governments plus Last year, the West Virginia Division of Natural Re- developers, investors, individual sources had a willing seller ready to part with 4,600 picture-perfect acres overlooking the New River Gorge. landowners and heirs to conserve The seller wanted quick payment in one lump sum. crucial natural areas. But the state of West Virginia, though salivating over the chances to add the huge tract to its Beury Mountain Wildlife Management Area, didn’t have the financial resources to write one big check on the spot. 26 ON COMMON GROUND WINTER 2009
  • 27. Enter The Nature Conservancy (TNC), a leading con- year. “This project is an excellent example of a wise state servation organization whose more than one million investment in our natural resources. It provides a new members have been responsible for protecting more place for public recreation, continuing to make West than 15 million acres in the United States. The non- Virginia a destination for hunters and tourists and im- profit land trust stepped in and purchased the largest proving the quality of life for West Virginians.” preservation property acquired in West Virginia in more The Mountain State will pay back TNC over time, us- than two decades. ing funds generated each year from hunting and fishing “The Nature Conservancy has the ability to step in, license fees. The property, formerly owned by Mountain borrow funds internally to pick up the property, and Top Management, Inc., borders National Park Service then sell the property back to a government agency as lands of the New River Gorge National River for more funding becomes available,” said Rodney Bartgis, state than 4.5 miles. director for the Nature Conservancy in West Virginia. “We had completed a land transaction with the owner “TNC gets reimbursed for the cost of the land and di- in Maryland, and they indicated they had this property rect expenses like survey and appraisal.” available in West Virginia and inquired if we were in- Such land-saving deals are taking place each day as more terested. We were, because it buffered the forests owned than 1,700 land trusts in America work with federal, by the National Park Service in the New River Gorge, state and local governments plus developers, investors, which we had identified as being important because it is individual landowners and heirs to conserve crucial one of the least fragmented large forested blocks in the natural areas. Central Appalachians,” said Bartgis, noting that the new “Conserving this forest along the New River Gorge is a conservation success story for all of West Virginia,” West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III said in TNC release an- nouncing the New River Gorge deal’s closing early this Conserving this forest along the New River Gorge is a conservation success story for all of West Virginia. ©Kent Mason Bear Rocks Preserves is on Dolly Sods, a high plateau atop the Allegheny Front in West Virginia. 27
  • 28. Land Trusts are growing throughout this nation as a hedge against land misuse and urban sprawl. Greens Bayou, purchase, added to existing conserved lands, protects a Texas total of 10,000 acres of state-owned land on the plateau overlooking the gorge. According to TNC, a National Park Service study con- cluded that tourists spend more than $75 million a year in the four-county area surrounding the New River. “I see conservation of land and economic development as symbiotic,” Dave Arnold, member of the West Vir- ginia Tourism Commission and co-owner of Class VI River Runners, one of the New River Gorge’s largest rafting companies, said in a statement released by TNC. “The acquisition of this tract shows that we can strike a balance between development and conservation. As- suring these lands will be available for enjoyment of the public spurs economic growth by drawing sportsmen to local businesses and by providing another amenity that can attract visitors to the region.” Bartgis concluded “The Nature Conservancy used its abilities to marshal financial resources at the speed of business, enabling the state to undertake a transaction it otherwise could not.” Land trusts — such as TNC, the National Park Trust and the Trust for Public Land down to little local non- profits created simply to save a little park from being paved over or to ensure that a stream is protected from agricultural or industrial pollution — are growing throughout this nation as a hedge against land misuse and urban sprawl. The Land Trust Alliance (LTA), a Washington D.C.- based organization that coordinates procedure, infor- mation, ethical standards, technology, policy, training and more for 1,700 land trusts across America, counted fewer than 450 state and local land trusts nationwide when it was created 25 years ago. “America’s 1,700 land trusts are local, citizen-led charities that work to protect special places in their communities, 28 ON COMMON GROUND
  • 29. Above: Arthur Storey Park in Harris County, Texas, said LTA President Rand Wentworth. “Voters are in- effectively incorporates park and recreational features creasingly demanding clean drinking water, local farms, with a 220-acre stormwater detention basin. parks and wildlife habitat. Instead of meeting these needs Below: Wild flowers bloom in Onion Creek, which is through government condemnation or regulation, land part of the beautiful Hill Country in Austin, Texas. trusts are politically attractive since they respect private property rights and offer tax incentives for landowners to voluntarily conserve their property.” The LTA worked with Congress to pass a major increase in federal conservation tax incentives to help relieve many farmers and ranchers from paying federal income taxes for 16 years in exchange for donating a conserva- tion easement on their land. The extension for the in- creased incentive expires in 2009 and LTA is lobbying hard to make the law permanent. “Private land conservation makes economic sense,” Wentworth said. “Unlike a new subdivision, farms and green space do not require expensive public services like schools, fire protection, water and sewer. So land con- servation can help keep property taxes from increasing: cows don’t go to school.” Wentworth said the more than two million people that are land trust members and, at the least, 90,000 profes- sionals that work for America’s land trusts are making unparalleled progress. “During the 1990s America developed about 2.2 mil- lion acres per year, according to the USDA’s Natural WINTER 2009 29
  • 30. Resources Inventory,” he said. Since the late 1990s, per- and permanently protect 5,000 acres — with 7,500 manent land protection by private landowners, working more acres in process to be protected,” he continued. with land trusts, actually outpaced development. From “We’re really just getting started. The potential to help 1998-2005, approximately 2.6 million acres per year protect tens and even hundreds of thousands of acres were permanently conserved by private land trusts.” through private investments is very real. If we’re going Carl Palmer — principal and co-founder of Beartooth Capital Partners, a conservation-minded investment firm in Bozeman, Mt. — cut his teeth in the preserva- tion business while serving as executive director of the Ogden Nature Center, a land trust and education center in Northern Utah. Land trusts continue to be an important cog in his suc- cessful group which makes private equity investments that generate competitive risk-adjusted returns while restoring and protecting ecologically important land in the Western United States. “We make investments that create value and mitigate risk for our investors while having a compelling conservation impact,” Palmer said. “We work with leading conserva- tion groups including The Nature Conservancy and oth- ers to enhance the amount of conservation they would not otherwise be able to accomplish on their own.” The vast landscape of Montana’s Little Wood Headwaters “In the past two years, we have helped restore miles of Ranch and its surroundings include the Little Wood River river and stream, return water rights to in-stream use (the largest riparian corridor); Baugh Creek (the smaller corridor); and the Pioneer Mountains. ©Bear Tooth Capital, In the past two years, we have helped restore miles of river and stream, return water rights to in-stream use and permanently protect 5,000 acres — with 7,500 more acres in process to be protected. 30 ON COMMON GROUND
  • 31. There are lots of opportunities to create financial value while protecting and enhancing ecological value. to create financial value while protecting and enhancing ecological value — the two often go hand in hand if you bring the right perspective to bear on the problem.” Palmer and his partners started Beartooth because of the tremendous potential they saw for private capital to play an important role in increasing the amount of land con- served. He said Beartooth is compiling a track record of achievement that demonstrates investors can earn strong returns while helping conservation groups fulfill their to accomplish enough conservation in the next 10 to critical missions. 20 years to protect places like the Greater Yellowstone “The important work that nonprofits like The Nature Ecosystem, we had better realize that potential.” Conservancy and Montana Land Reliance are doing is Working with land trusts and landowners, Beartooth gen- absolutely critical if we’re going to protect the West’s erates tax savings by placing conservation easements on wide-open landscapes and the wildlife that live there,” properties that will remain private. It also has occasionally he said. “But the pace of habitat conversion and devel- brokered the transfer of ownership of high-priority con- opment is such that everyone agrees we’re not getting servation land to public agencies or nonprofits. enough done — we need to figure out ways to change “We create value in a variety of ways, from fixing flaws the game and accomplish conservation at a greater scale. with properties to enhancing their value as recreational Since there is so much more private capital than there is ranches through restoration of rivers and streams.” philanthropic and government funding, the conserva- Palmer explained. “Each project is unique — we simply tion community has long looked for vehicles that could look for opportunities to create financial value while do- effectively put private investment capital to work in a ing what is right for the land and what our conservation way that leads to real conservation results.” partners want to see happen. It certainly doesn’t work Keith Fountain, director of land acquisition for The for every property, but there are lots of opportunities Nature Conservancy’s Florida office, said land trusts can WINTER 2009 31
  • 32. ©Vernon Compton/The Nature Conservancy Above: The rapids at the Blackwater River watershed in Florida are part of the 58-mile long river arising in southern Alabama and flowing through the Florida Panhandle to the Gulf of Mexico. Below: Volunteers at the Nalle Bunny Run Wildlife Preserve in Texas cut and pile cedar trunks and branches to create several large brush piles which serve as cover and nesting sites for small mammals, reptiles and ground nesting birds. Land trusts can influence the decisions of large real estate holders to protect nature while also protecting their bottom line. influence the decisions of large real estate holders to pro- said of Rayonier, which is proud that — as one of the tect nature while also protecting their bottom line. largest private timberland owners in the U.S. — its forests “Rayonier was auctioning a 3,000-acre block in the are certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. Florida Panhandle and southern Alabama and to their Fountain said the former Rayonier lands were crucial credit, they pulled about one-third of land out of the because they were part of the “holes in the Swiss cheese” auction package to sell it in a straight transaction to that represent private holdings within the huge Black- us,” Fountain said of the publicly-traded company that water State Forest in Florida’s Panhandle. owns, leases or manages 2.6 million acres of timberland Managed by the state’s Division of Forestry, the gigan- in the U.S. and New Zealand and sells timber for use in tic tract along the Blackwater River offers recreational domestic and export markets. opportunities such as hiking, swimming, camping, “That company has a strong commitment to the sale of canoeing, fishing, hunting, mountain biking, horseback their lands that are important for conservation,” Fountain riding and nature study. 32 ON COMMON GROUND
  • 33. There is a realization that green space and conservation land enhances the value of neighboring properties. “There is a realization that green space and conservation land enhances the value of neighboring properties. As we often say, land is precious and they’re not making any more of it,” said John Sebree, head of public policy for the Florida Association of REALTORS®. Sebree said REALTORS® are active with land trusts and understand that the environmental impacts of develop- ment can make it more difficult for communities to protect their natural resources. “Where and how communities accommodate growth has a profound impact on the quality of their streams, rivers, lakes and beaches,” he said. “Development that uses land efficiently and protects undisturbed natural lands allows a community to grow and still protect its water resources.” In Texas, the Hill Country Conservancy (HCC) just completed a deal to save a 1,318-acre section of the historic Storm Ranch located in northern Hays County. Through various phases working with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Texas Parks & Wildlife staff, the HCC has conserved the “5,675-acre working cattle ranch with ancient rock fences separating pastures of native grasses, magnificent live oaks and numerous creeks and streams.” Above: Bald cypress trees line the banks of the Colorado George Cofer, executive director of the HCC, said the River at the 35-acre Nalle Bunny Run Wildlife Preserve in Texas. final phase, to preserve the entire ranch, should be com- pleted in 2010. Below: Volunteers in the fall of 2007 contributed more than 68 hours of service at the Storm Ranch in Texas. “Conservation and enhancement of the many ‘public The Storm Ranch includes portions of the Onion Creek good’ values can be achieved through land trusts work- Watershed, the Colorado River Basin and the Blanco Watershed, and the Gaudalupe/Blanco River Basin. ing collaboratively with landowners to ensure proper range management practices that will conserve and often enhance wildlife habitat, scenic vistas and open space, water resources and archeological, historical and cultural resources,” he said. “Land Conservation can also provide environmental learning and public recreational opportunities. Preservation of the rural ranching/agricultural legacy is important to many com- munities as well.”  Wright frequently writes about Smart Growth and sustainable communities. He and his wife live in a restored historic home in the heart of Miami’s Little Havana. Contact him at: WINTER 2009 33
  • 34. The Washington Family Legacy The National Park Trust (NPT) is a private land trust Jefferson County, W. Va., the state’s easternmost county organization founded in 1983 that focuses on land ac- and home to portions of Harpers Ferry National His- quisition and the protection of the national parks. At torical Park and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. the heart of its vision is for everyone to have a national This is George Washington country. Washington park experience. surveyed the area’s wild lands and was enchanted by “We want to get kids back to nature because there’s a its beauty and fertility. He bought his first property, correlation between outside activity and lowered rates of consisting of about 500 acres, and founded Bullskin obesity and ADHD. There’s also a correlation between Plantation in 1750. early positive experiences [at national parks] and desire Washington convinced his brothers to buy land there to preserve later on,” said Kit McGinnis, NPT’s land as well. At one point, there were 12 Washington family projects manager. homes located in the county. The Washingtons were the NPT also strives to protect parkland from residential area’s most prominent family throughout the 1800s. and commercial development. Threats to the continued This NPT project would create a National Historical existence and quality of the national parks include 4.3 Park based on the George Washington Family Legacy million acres of land that are privately held within parks. by linking the four non-contiguous sites as part of the NPT is currently setting its sights on four properties in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. ©Courtesy Curt Mason 34 ON COMMON GROUND
  • 35. This NPT project would create a National Historical Park based on the George Washington Family Legacy. The cornerstone property is Bullskin. Brother Charles’ Happy Retreat (built in 1780), and two other properties (Claymont Court and Blakeley), both built in the 1820s by Washington’s grand nephews, round out the quartet. “Washington had no biological children, so these were his heirs and a big part of who inherited his legacy,” McGinnis said. NPT has four property owners willing to be part of a study — which will take six months to three years to ©Courtesy Walter Washington complete — on whether the sites merit inclusion in the National Park Service. Two of the properties are already on the market and the owners of the other two are inter- ested in selling to the right buyer. To make the properties more attractive to the National Park Service, NPT is raising private funding to acquire and restore the properties to their former grandeur.  ©Courtesy Curt Mason Above photos: Bullskin field is part of the original land purchased in West Virginia by George Washington, and nearby, Happy Retreat was built by his brother Charles in Charles Town, W. Va. Left photos: Both Blakeley and Claymont Court mansions are located on the Washington Heritage Trail in West Virginia, and Claymont Court remains open to the public. ©Courtesy Todd Smith Photography WINTER 2009 35
  • 36. The Conservation Synergy By Christine Jordan Sexton Pr ivate Cor porations Are Securing Open Space O nce accustomed to fighting each other in the courts and political arena, some environmental groups and corporations are finding it may be better to work together. Although it is far from being a uni- versal trend, some environmentalists and corporations have forged deals that allow hundreds of thousands of acres of environmentally sensitive land to be preserved while also allowing for some land to be developed, mak- ing private agreements a way to preserve land. Some environmentalists and corporations have forged deals, making private agreements a way to preserve land. One striking example of this new compromise approach came this past May in California where the owner of the largest tract of contiguous private property in the state inked a deal with a handful of environmental groups after years of fighting over development of the land that is located about 60 miles north of Los Angeles and 30 miles south of Bakersfield. Courtesy of The Wilds Under the agreement Tejon Ranch Corporation will build on 10 percent of the land along the Interstate American Electric Power donated private lands to estab- 5 corridor. It will build the planned communities of lish a wildlife preservation center where thousands of students every year come to learn about conservation. Centennial and Tejon Mountain Village, as well as the development of the Grapevine area which is adjacent to Tejon Industrial Complex (TIC). 36 ON COMMON GROUND WINTER 2009
  • 37. The deal between Tejon Ranch and the environmental groups shows that California’s environment can be protected and at the same time, “we pump up our economy.” The TIC is located at the junction of Interstate 5 and Highway 99 at the southern end of California’s Central Valley. The 1,450-acre industrial/commercial complex is located between the ports of Oakland and Los An- geles and is a logistics center for California, the western United States and Canada. Immediate plans focus on Centennial and Tejon Moun- tain Village, with the former being a 30-year build out master planned community with 23,000 homes. Tejon Mountain Village is a vacation destination, according to Barry Zoeller, Vice President and Director of Corporate Communications. The area also is a crossroads of four ecosystems (the Sierra Nevada, Mojave Desert, San Joaquin Valley and Coastal Range). It is home to the endangered Califor- nia condor, spotted owl, and kit fox and other animal species. Its landscapes range from native grasslands to Joshua tree woodlands to oak and fir forests. Despite the presence of significant ecosystems there is no opposition from environmental groups. The Sierra Club, Audubon California, the Natural Resources De- fense Council, Endangered Habitats and the Planning and Conservation Leagues, and Resource Opportunities LLC all signed off on the deal because Tejon Ranch has agreed to set aside 90 percent of its land — 178,000 acres — and provide an option for the public purchase of another 62,000 acres, most of which will be used for a state park. Moreover, the company also agreed to reroute a 37-mile segment of the Pacific Crest Trail so that it goes through the ranch providing the public access to some never-be- ©National Park Service fore-seen pristine land. 37
  • 38. arrangement in 2006 to sell 80 percent of one of the Business, environmental and largest undeveloped tracts in the state, known as the political leaders in California are Babcock Ranch, while proposing to build a sustainable community on the remaining land. showing the nation how we can Other recent examples of corporations and environmen- all work together to achieve real talists working together include: conservation without conflict. • Environmental groups in California this year sup- ported a successful bid by a company owned by the founders of The Gap clothing store to take over a bank- California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said the rupt Northern California logging firm whose practices deal between Tejon Ranch and the environmental groups had sparked protests over the last two decades. The new shows that California’s environment can be protected owners have promised a more “sustainable’’ type of and at the same time “we pump up our economy.” practice and attempted to reach out to those who had Robert Stine, president and CEO of Tejon Ranch Cor- protested the logging. poration said the agreement is “good for conservation, • A coalition of environmental groups in Texas dropped good for California and good for the company and its opposition to a power plant expansion after NRG Texas shareholders.” LLC, a subsidiary of NRG Energy Inc., agreed in Au- “This is an agreement that goes beyond birds and gust to commit to offset production of greenhouse gases beauty,” said National Audubon Society President John from the plant and reduce water usage. Flicker at the time of the announcement. “Business, en- vironmental and political leaders in California are show- ing the nation how we can all work together to achieve real conservation without conflict.” The deal in California echoes a similar one in Florida where developer Syd Kitson put together an innovative Babcock Ranch in Ft. Meyers, Fla. ©2008 Onboard Informatics, photo by Jaimes Wilson 38 ON COMMON GROUND
  • 39. ©The Wilds 75,000 visit The Wilds annually to see African, Asian and North American species roam the restored land. Utility giant American Electric Power (AEP) stepped plant seed indigenous to the area. The reclaimed land up its environmental stewardship back in 1986 when was green, lush and prevented further erosion. However it donated vacated strip-mine land to a group called since the grass wasn’t native, The Wilds communication the International Center for the Preservation of Wild director Toni Kellar said, the ecosystem, which was Animals. wiped out when the land was mined, never returned to Now the 10,000 acres in southeastern Ohio is called its natural state. The Wilds and some 75,000 visit annually to see All that changed when The Wilds started its restoration African, Asian and North American species roam the of the area, including resodding with indigenous grass restored land. seed. Now, said Kellar, the land has been restored and AEP is one of the nation’s largest generators of electricity there are lush meadows replete with flowers that attract and also is one of the most reliant on coal-fired plants. birds, bees and butterflies. Even field mice, snakes and Coal is one of the largest sources of air pollution in the turtles are found on the land that was once barren. United States today. In addition to donating the original land, AEP continues When AEP “reclaimed” the land in the 1970s it didn’t to have an active role in The Wilds. For instance, Kellar WINTER 2009 39
  • 40. ©U.S. Sugar U.S. Sugar’s orange groves include numerous wildlife inhabitants. The white-tailed doe is on of many deer that makes its home on protected U.S. Sugar property, where no hunting is allowed and violators are prosecuted. ©U.S. Sugar This represents the largest conservation purchase in the history of the state of Florida. said, the North American utility donated $30,000 to Earthjustice lobbyist Sue Mullins predicted that within help subsidize the costs of day and overnight trips that six to 10 years there will be a marked improvement in The Wilds hosts for school children. the famed “River of Grass” and that South Florida’s wa- Another striking deal put together this year is in Florida, ter supply will begin to improve. where the nation’s largest producer of cane sugar has “This returns the nation’s largest wetland back to its agreed to a $1.75-billion deal to sell off its land and to most natural state where it provides natural water reten- eventually go out of business. tion and a natural water supply,” she said. The deal is still pending but the agreement is for the state With competition from foreign companies affecting the to buy 300 square miles of land south of Lake Okeechobee; price of sugar and soil issues affecting the integrity of the heartland of the wetland system. U.S. Sugar will sugar cane, Mullins said groups like hers are optimistic continue to farm 187,000 acres for another six years. that the production of sugar in Florida will be limited Florida Governor Charlie Crist said the deal is “as in the future. monumental as the creation of our nation’s first national Still, they had no assurances that the Everglades would park, Yellowstone.” begin to be restored to its natural state. “This represents, if we’re successful, and I believe we will “We feared most of the land would be converted to be, the largest conservation purchase in the history of pavement, rooftops and roadways,” she said. the state of Florida,” Crist said. But while there is a slowly-evolving trend of environ- U.S. Sugar CEO Robert Buker said he was saddened mental groups and companies working together, it by the decision of U.S. Sugar, which employs 1,700 doesn’t always end all disputes. In late 2007 the state people, to close its doors. Nonetheless he said he was of New York brokered a deal with environmental “excited” about the deal and what it meant for the future groups and a developer to allow the construction of the of Florida’s environment. Belleayre Resort, a $400 million new hotel in the Catskills 40 ON COMMON GROUND
  • 41. The deal is “as monumental as the creation of our nation’s first national park, Yellowstone.” Different varieties of sugar cane plants are developed and tested in the U.S. Sugar Research Department’s Mountains. Part of the deal included the state acquiring ongoing efforts to more than 1,200 acres in the area. find healthier crops. The New York deal was not signed off by all environmen- tal groups and it was contested by the Catskill Heritage Alliance and homeowners near the resort, who unsuc- ©U.S. Sugar cessfully tried to get a court to block the arrangement. Cirtus seedlings Nonetheless there remains a campaign to challenge the grown in U.S. construction of the Belleayre Resort. Sugar’s new nursery are available to Eric Wedemeyer, principal broker at Coldwell Banker all growers. Timberland Properties, supported the agreement, say- ing it would improve the local economy by helping to provide accommodations to those who ski in the area. Oftentimes now, Wedemeyer said, skiers come into town but then leave. Wedemeyer, who serves on local economic development boards, says the town sorely needs the economic stimu- ©U.S. Sugar lus the project would bring. Sandhill cranes, one of many species of “I was very hopeful that it would move forward. But wildlife, make their sometimes the environmentalists forget the humans home on U.S. that are involved and sometimes corporations forget the Sugar land. environment is involved.” However, for each continued challenge, there emerges successful examples of private corporations dedicated to securing our nation’s natural land resources, with the hope that others may follow suit in order to maintain the wilderness which was once privately owned and commercially used.  Christine Jordan Sexton is a freelance journalist in Tal- lahassee, Florida and over the years her works have appeared in The New York Times, The Daily Business Review, Florida Medical Business and Florida Heatlh News. She has contributed to On Common Ground for the last five years. WINTER 2009 41
  • 42. A Cherr y of a Deal Farmers Receive Much Needed Assistance to Protect Their Land By John Van Gieson I t may be a reach to say that cherry pies will go the way of the dodo bird, but it helps make the point that prime farmland in this country is seriously threatened by development. As development pres- sures mount, the last crop some farmers sell is their land. Some crops, such as certain cherries, could be jeopardized by the onslaught on agricultural land. The American Farmland Trust (AFT) has reported that the nation is losing two acres of farmland to develop- ment every minute, about one million acres a year. “It’s like losing the state of Maryland every five years,” said Jennifer Morrill, AFT communications director. “We’re losing our best farmland. We’re losing specific soil types which means sometime we will lose the ability to grow certain crops. Pie cherry land is being decimated in Michigan.” “Eighty-six percent of fruits and vegetables are grown in paths of development,” she said. “We also know that the best soils in the country tend to be around cities.” The nation is losing two acres of farmland to development every minute, about one million acres a year. 42 ON COMMON GROUND WINTER 2009
  • 43. ©Peninsula Township Planner ©Courtesy of Grand Traverse ©Courtesy of Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy Regional Land Conservancy Above Left: Home to Peninsula Township and Traverse City, the scenic Old Mission Peninsula projects nearly 18 miles into the Grand Traverse Bay of Lake Michigan. Above Right: Pressure for development is growing in Grand Traverse County, and many of the farms with cherry crops are being sold. Below Right: Volunteers spend the day building and shaping trails through the Arcadia Dunes Preserve in Grand Traverse County, Michigan. Property values are so high because this is such a desirable area to live that the land is actually more valuable than the food grown on it. A prime example of endangered farmland is the Traverse University of New Hampshire demographer Ken John- City, Mich., area, “The Cherry Capital of the World” son to describe people leaving urban areas for attractive thanks to a unique combination of soils and climate. rural areas where they can enjoy a high quality of life, are The area also produces peaches, other fruits and wines moving from Chicago, Detroit and other urban areas to — primarily Rieslings — that are rapidly gaining stat- the picture-postcard-perfect area around the bay. ure among oenophiles. The AFT rates the Traverse City “The same things that make this area so beautiful to us farming region among the 20 most endangered in the are what’s driving people to move here or have a second United States. home here,” said Jennifer Jay, communications direc- Traverse City is a rapidly growing small city that sits at tor of the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy the base of the 17-mile-long Old Mission Peninsula jut- (GTRLC). “We’ve had tremendous growth over the last ting out into Grand Traverse Bay, an arm of Lake Michi- 15 years in Peninsula and Acme Townships and have gan named by 18th century French explorers. Peninsula seen the loss of a lot of farmland. Property values are Township and Acme Township on the east shore of the so high because this is such a desirable area to live that bay are highly productive farming areas threatened by the land is actually more valuable than the food grown development. “Amenity migrants,” a term coined by on it.” 43
  • 44. Dorrance Amos, an Acme Township farmer, said land is selling for $10,000 an acre near his farm. “That’s what I’m up against,” he told the AFT. “I’d like to add to my farm, but I can’t justify $10,000 per acre.” He’d like for his children to continue farming the land but doesn’t know if that will be possible. Amos grows dark, sweet, tart and Maraschino cherries as well as apples, pears and plums on his farm, which was ©Peninsula Township Planner cleared by his great-great-great grandfather. There is a national movement underway, driven by the AFT, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, state and local Left: Old Mission government programs and land trusts all over the country, Peninsula, Michigan. to protect land like Amos’ from development. Farmland Below: Farmer Dorrance Amos is committed to protection advocates employ a number of tools to keep helping preserve and development from overwhelming working farms, but the sustain Michigan’s ©Courtesy of Grand Traverse most common is agriculture conservation easements. Regional Land Conservancy precious farmland. Other popular tools in the farmland protection kit in- clude purchase of development rights (PDR), basically conservation easements, transfers of development rights from farmer to developers who get higher density bo- nuses and zoning restrictions. The AFT reports that 49 states have agriculture ease- ment laws. Farmers typically enter into agreements not to develop their land with government agencies or land trusts. In some cases they donate the value of their land, and in others are compensated by programs such as the Federal Farmland Protection (FPP) program run by the Department of Agriculture. When Congress passed the 2008 Farm Bill, overriding President Bush’s veto, it authorized a major expansion of FPP funding, from $499 million in 2002-07 to $743 million from 2008 to 2012. Jimmy Daukas, managing director of agriculture and the environment for AFT in Washington, D.C., said the bill benefitted farmers eligi- Farmland protection advocates employ a number of tools to keep development from overwhelming working farms. ©American Farmland Trust 44 ON COMMON GROUND
  • 45. ble for FPP conservation easement grants by increasing there, protecting more than 5,000 acres of prime farm- funding and flexibility in administering the program. land. The millage increases twice approved by township “One size doesn’t fit all,” he said. “There’s a real differ- voters have raised $17 million in farmland protection ence between protecting ranchland in Texas and protect- funds so far, he said. ing farmland outside the big cities in the Northeast.” “The farmland values have gone up dramatically since The Farm Bill also provided major increases in funding the PDR program started,” Hayward said. for farm conservation and alternative energy programs One of the largest state agricultural conservation ease- and launched a new subsidy program that gives farmers ment programs is run by the California Farmland Con- the option of receiving subsidies based on lost revenue. servancy Program (CFCP), a division of the California Tax breaks are another financial incentive for farmers Department of Conservation. Working closely with lo- entering into conservation easements. Derek Halberg, cal land trusts, the California program provides funding executive director of the Tar River Land Conservancy for conservation easements all over the state. in North Carolina, said farmers who deed their land to The California agency provided $670,625 to the Sac- the conservancy for easements receive federal income tax ramento Valley Conservancy to purchase an easement deductions and state income tax credits. If they get FPP at Winterport Farm, a 180-acre grazing and hay farm grants, he said, they can cut their income taxes in half near Ione, Calif. Ione, a small city located in a rapidly- and in some cases eliminate them for up to 15 years. growing area about 30 miles southeast of Sacramento, In Peninsula and Acme Townships, where local officials was known as “Freezeout” and “Bedbug” during the run the easement programs, voters have approved prop- California Gold Rush. erty tax increases to raise funds to pay farmers for entering into conservation easements protecting their endangered Tax breaks are another financial farms. Peninsula Township runs a purchase of develop- ment rights programs. Acme Township voters have ap- incentive for farmers entering into proved a 10-year millage increase that is expected to raise conservation easements. $2.8 to $3 million to pay for conservation easements. Gordon Hayward, planning director for Peninsula Township, said the township, the GTRLC and the AFT, have all purchased conservation easements from farmers WINTER 2009 45
  • 46. Farm owner Dan Port decided he better protect his land When you have prime farmland with a conservation easement when a residential devel- oper bought 16,000 acres just north of Winterport. A like we have here it’s really wrong residential golf course community already exists between to have to develop it. his farm, part of an old Spanish land grant, and Ione. Port said he’s part of a group of farmers who are trying “It’s just a value system that we have, when you have to channel growth away from prime farmland and into prime farmland like we have here it’s really wrong to the hilly land on the other side of town. have to develop it,” Port said. “The conservation ease- ment gave us a chance to get some value out of the land Tobacco farm in Oxford, N.C. without selling it.” “We realize that development is inevitable,” said Brian Leahy, head of California’s Division of Land Resource Protection, “but we strive to direct the growth away from prime farmland when possible.” The Tar River Land Conservancy serves an eight-county area bordering a pristine 50-mile stretch of the Tar River in an area encountering sprawl from the Raleigh/ Durham metro area. Once part of the North Carolina tobacco belt, the area is transitioning to timber and grazing. Timber and tobacco farmer Ernie Averett of Oxford, N.C., was a founder of the conservancy, giv- ing up a seat on the Granville County Commission to devote more time to protecting the river, farmland and forests, some of which are virgin. A recent conservation easement has preserved the Winterport property to remain in use for agricultural production in Amador County, Calif. The Port Family runs the farm, which is currently being used for grazing and hay production, but also has produced pumpkins, vegetables and melons through the years. 46 ON COMMON GROUND
  • 47. The decline of the housing market has, for the time being, substantially reduced the immediate threat to farmland. Averett put 600 acres of his farm on the banks of the Tar River under a conservation easement, receiving grants from the FPP and the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund. He also benefits from tax incentives. Averett can selectively cut pine trees on his property but has agreed to protect a buffer of forested land along the river to help preserve its natural beauty. “I would say we got one-third of the property value,” Averett said. “We bought more land and that land will be protected.” “There is no funding source that is as lucrative as simply developing the property,” he added. The decline of the housing market in Michigan, Califor- nia, North Carolina and just about everywhere else has, for the time being, substantially reduced the immediate threat to farmland, but farmland protection advocates know it won’t be long until the market recovers and pressure to develop farmland mounts again. “You tell me when the housing market’s going to pick up, and I’ll tell you when the development pressure will start again,” Hayward said. Even so, AFT’s Daukas sees a silver lining in the cloud hovering over many American farms. “The best protection program for farmers is making money,” he said. “That’s one of the things that’s really changed in the last couple of years, things like higher crop prices and new renewable energy markets. Farmers are ac- tually buying land instead of selling. Farmland prices are going up, and it’s not just because of development.”  John Van Gieson is a freelance writer based in Tallahassee, Fla. He owns and runs Van Gieson Media Relations, Inc. WINTER 2009 47
  • 48. Protecting O u r N a t i o n ’ s Wildlands ´©Kent Mason By Judy Newman C The push to leave more wild areas onservation groups say 2008 could untouched seems to be gaining be the best year in decades for pro- tecting some of the nation’s spec- ground on a bipartisan basis, tacular, natural areas. They are pinning their hopes on passage of an omnibus bill in Con- gress that could designate as many as 2 million acres for federal wilderness protection, from the giant Douglas fir trees in Oregon to the Lake Superior shoreline in Upper Michigan to the Ice Age rock formations in Virginia. It is one of numerous efforts underway to protect natu- ral areas, among them: • In May, President Bush signed the Wild Sky Wilderness Act into law, creating the first new national forest wilder- ness area in Washington state in more than two decades. • The House of Representatives approved the National Landscape Conservation System Act by nearly a two-to- The fall colors grace the landscape of one margin in April, to create an organization to oversee Johnson Ridge for miles in the Wild Sky about 26 million acres of national monuments, scenic Wilderness of Washington. rivers and trails and historic sites, much of which repre- sent America’s “Wild West” heritage. 48 ON COMMON GROUND WINTER 2009
  • 49. • Wrangling continues in federal district courts over the be good to get up to 10 percent.” Wilderness designa- so-called Roadless Rule, a measure enacted in 2001 by tion is an umbrella that prevents development or other the Clinton administration. The rule prohibits logging, intrusive use of the land. No timber sales are allowed, no mining or other development on 58.5 million acres commercial logging, no oil or gas leases, no mechanized across the country. travel. What you CAN do is hike, camp, fish, hunt, The push to leave more wild areas untouched seems to ride horses, graze cattle. “None of them will destroy the be gaining ground on a bipartisan basis, even as calls land,” says Matz. mount — in these days of soaring gasoline prices — to Environmentalists are gaining ground in protecting open more public lands to oil and gas exploration and pristine lands by joining forces with other interests. other types of commercial development. “Folks have really recognized that you have to build “The U.S. Forest Service says we lose four acres a minute local consensus for this. Talk to city council members of open space, (or) 2 million acres a year. So this is trying and county commissioners. In the end, if there’s enough to balance the scales,” says Mike Matz, executive direc- public support, enough business support, church sup- tor of the Campaign for America’s Wilderness. port, outdoorsmen support, then it’s easy to get a city “They’re not making wilderness any more. And once we council to pass a resolution in support of a wilderness lose it, it’s gone forever,” he says. proposal” and convince a member of Congress to bring the issue to Washington, D.C., Matz says. Right now, 4.7 percent of U.S. land is protected as wil- derness, Matz says. “There’s still a ways to go. It would Johnson Ridge, Washington Left: Visitors admire the view of Diablo Lake in the National Park Service Cascades of Washington. They’re not making wilderness any more. Once we lose it, it’s gone forever. 49
  • 50. Left: Sen. Parry Murray and Rep. Rick Larson celebrate the signing into law of the Wild Sky Wilderness in May 2008. Right: Diablo Lake offers many recreational activities located in Washington’s North Cascades National Park. Below: Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado National Park Service Congress protects Washington lands It took more than eight years to get the Wild Sky Wilder- ness Act enacted. The bill designates more than 106,000 acres of forests, mountains and rivers in Washington state for the highest level of protection from development. “There was really quite a bit of euphoria” when Presi- dent Bush signed the bill, said Barak Gale, vice president of the Washington Wilderness Coalition. Gale said the coalition worked hard for years, rallying a “very broad constituency” to support the bill, while Sen. Patty Mur- ray and Rep. Rick Larsen, both Democrats from Wash- ington, helped keep the measure alive. National Park Service The land is in the Cascade Mountains, about 90 miles northeast of Seattle, and much of it is in low elevation for- At the state level, Realtors have est. So in addition to being a habitat for creatures such as bears and bald eagles, it is also rich with opportunities for been among those taking the hiking, fishing, rock climbing, rafting and kayaking. lead in preserving natural areas. Gale and his partner moved to Index, Wash., at the “gateway” to Wild Sky, about four years ago and ex- ally excited to have 20 more wildlife areas in the state,” plored the area, hiking its trails. “I remember a particu- said Bryan Wahl, government affairs director for the lar hike on the North Fork Trail, along the Skykomish Washington Association of REALTORS®. River (after which the Wild Sky bill is named). I was just At the state level, REALTORS® have been among those astounded at the size and age of the trees. It reminded taking the lead in preserving natural areas, Wahl said. me of the redwood forests of California. Douglas fir and The REALTORS® association was a charter member of western red cedar were everywhere you looked, and they the Washington Wildlife Recreation Coalition and two were about 800 years old,” said Gale, owner of the Wild REALTORS® remain on the board of directors of the Lily Cabins Bed & Breakfast. group, which involves a statewide effort to muster pub- Washington state REALTORS® were among those who lic and private resources to buy land and set it aside for had worked for passage of the legislation. “We were re- wildlife habitat and recreation. 50 ON COMMON GROUND
  • 51. “We understand the important role in real estate of These are places of the original quality of life,” Wahl said. “We take great pride and care in preserving our environment as best we can.” But, at America, out of which we carved the same time, the ability of property owners to buy and this great nation and by which we sell land has to be preserved, as well, he added. “It’s a balancing act,” Wahl said. “We have to ensure formed our character as a people. there’s sufficient land to accommodate growth.” • 55,000 acres in Virginia’s Jefferson National Forest to The wild, Wild West be designated either wilderness, a wilderness study area Fifteen proposals to add similar special protections to or national scenic area, with parts of the Appalachian natural areas already owned by the federal government Trail and rock outcroppings from the last Ice Age. are highlights of an omnibus public lands bill that’s high • Nearly 12,000 acres at Pictured Rocks National Lake- on the priority list for conservationists. It would pre- shore in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, along the south serve another 2 million acres of federal wilderness. shore of Lake Superior, featuring several miles of the “These are places of the original America, out of which North Country National Scenic Trail. we carved this great nation and by which we formed our All of the 15 wilderness proposals have some bipartisan character as a people,” says Matz. support, Matz says, as well as backing from a wide vari- They include some classic natural areas, such as: ety of groups. • 13,700 acres in Oregon’s Siskiyou National Forest, REALTOR® Susan Harvey is part of the coalition back- with giant Douglas fir trees, the head waters of the Elk ing a proposal to protect 190,000 acres in Riverside River and wild Chinook salmon runs. County, Calif., add 31 miles of river to the Wild and • More than 128,000 acres of national forest around Scenic River System and expand the Santa Rosa and San Mount Hood in Oregon and more than 80 miles of river that would become part of the National Wild and Scenic River System. • About 250,000 acres of breathtaking mountains, lush valleys and pristine rivers in Colorado’s Rocky Moun- tain National Park. • West Virginia’s first new wilderness area in 25 years: 37,000 acres in the Monongahela National Forest, a popular place for hunting, fishing and bird-watching. The Wild Sky Wilderness is a 106,577-acre wilderness area in the western Cascade Range of Washington state, and it is the first new federally designated wilderness in Washington since 1984, protecting significant amounts of high biological productivity low- elevation forest. WINTER 2009 51
  • 52. Joshua Tree National Park Our nation’s history preserved There needs to The National Landscape Conservation System Act be some type of moved forward, gaining approval of the House of Rep- resentatives, but then stalled in the Senate. balance between More than 75 organizations have been pressing for the development and bill, which would establish protections for lands and wa- ters managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management protection of (BLM). About 26 million of the 264 million acres under wilderness areas. BLM authority would be included in the new National National Park Service Landscape Conservation System. To a large extent, they represent the legacy and rugged beauty of the American West. Jacinto Mountains National Monument by 5,000 acres. The area includes portions of Joshua Tree National Park There are national monuments, scenic rivers and histor- and the North Fork San Jacinto River. ic trails, such as the Lewis and Clark Trail, the Sonoran Desert National Monument in Arizona, the Headwaters “I’m so supportive of this program, putting into conser- Forest Preserve in California and the Grand Staircase- vation property that already has certain restrictions on Escalante National Monument in Utah. it. It is not jeopardizing land that is privately owned,” says Harvey, co-owner of Desert Pacific Properties in Many of the areas that would become part of the Na- Palm Desert, Calif. tional Landscape Conservation System were designated as national monuments in the late 1990s by the Clinton “There needs to be some type of balance” between administration. But there is little staff or funding to development and protection of wilderness areas, she maintain them, supporters say. says, and homebuyers appreciate having nature’s beauty nearby. “It’s definitely more desirable when people are The National Landscape Conservation System Act looking at higher-end development,” she says. would create a way to make the designations “real and permanent,” says Myke Bybee, public lands representa- “It’s pretty well documented that wilderness designa- tive for the Sierra Club, in Washington, D.C. It would tions enhance nearby property values,” says Matz, of “secure the system’s future, give it real legal status and the Campaign for America’s Wilderness. “They become standing as an independent and viable system.” very attractive places for people to work out of in the New Economy. People want to live in areas where the Without that, “any administration could change its quality of life is good.” mind and with a memo, completely undo” the system, Bybee says. 52 ON COMMON GROUND
  • 53. The Roadless Rule bars road- The roads less traveled The Roadless Area Conservation Rule, adopted in 2001, building and logging on millions bars road-building and logging on millions of acres of of acres of national forest land. national forest land. “It’s significant. We’re talking about upwards of 50 mil- Also important: an established system to oversee the des- lion acres … That protects a lot of areas that have not ignated areas would give Congress a way to appropriate been managed over any extensive amount over the last funds to maintain them. 100 years,” says Michael Francis, director of the national The areas are primarily in western states, cited under forest program for The Wilderness Society. the Antiquities Act, passed in 1906, to protect objects The Bush administration repealed the rule in 2005 of historic or scientific interest. That’s why places such and let states submit petitions to create their own plans as the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, for managing roadless national forests. The repeal was outside Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, with struck down in court and the rule was authorized again its Native American cliff dwellings and rock art, are in 2006 by U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth D. Laporte included in the system. in San Francisco. But the measure has been bouncing The National Landscape Conservation System Act is around the courts for years. also part of the omnibus Senate bill now. The states of Idaho and Alaska filed suit in 2001, shortly Both Matz, of the Campaign for America’s Wilderness, after the rule was passed, challenging it. and the Sierra Club’s Bybee are optimistic about the pas- In August, for the second time in five years, a federal sage of the omnibus bill, although when this publication judge in Wyoming ruled that the Roadless Rule is in- went to press, it was uncertain there would be time to valid because it violates the National Environmental act on the bill before Congress adjourned. Policy Act and the Wilderness Act. U.S. District Judge “There’s a lot of momentum (for the package). If they Clarence Brimmer said the rule creates wilderness areas can find the time to take it up, I believe it will make it but under law, only Congress can do so. through the process,” Matz says. A proposed Colorado Roadless Rule would set aside Bybee says he thinks a vote is possible even during the more than 4 million acres of roadless land but would lame-duck session, after the November elections. open the property for temporary roads for exceptions “Everything we’ve heard from leadership is this is some- not allowed under the federal rule. Meanwhile, a new thing they want to get done,” says Bybee. “There are so many good things in there.” National Park Service Left: Mesa Verde, Colo.; Right: Rocky Mountain National Park, Colo. National Park Service WINTER 2009 53
  • 54. proposal for the state of Idaho would preserve nearly In seven and a half years, only 9 million roadless acres but make another 400,000 acres available for possible logging and mining. seven miles of road has been Environmental groups have appealed the Wyoming built in roadless areas. That’s a judge’s decision. They think there’s a “high probability” that an appeals court will stay the order. hopeful sign. Ed Foran, former president of the Aspen, Colo. Board of REALTORS®, said there’s “a lot of value” in maintain- ing areas without roads or cars, especially in resort com- munities. “Our economy is based on the visitor who’s coming to Aspen and the wilderness areas,” he said. While that may seem to “fly in the face” of what many consider citizens’ rights to access public lands, “at the end of the day, it upholds what we’re trying to do,” said Foran, who has testified on the issue before a state Road- less Rule review committee. “It preserves property val- ues, without a doubt, in our area. If we open everything up, it’s going to degrade the quality of the experience of National Park Service people that come from all over the world to visit, and for the people who live in these areas.” In the meantime, the 2001 Roadless Rule still stands, says the Wilderness Society’s Francis, and he says it has worked. “In seven and a half years, only seven miles of road has been built in roadless areas. That’s a hopeful sign,” Francis says. He says the Roadless Rule appears to be “one of the more popular rules ever entered in the Federal Register,” generating more than 1.6 million comments. “It enjoys tremendous public support … at the local, Photo by Anthony Olegario regional and national levels,” Francis says. “People understand these are areas that should be pro- Rocky Mountain National Park was created in 1915, tected,” he says. and it is recognized as an international Biosphere Reserve which is part of the network of protected There is hope for our nation’s wilderness to remain wild samples of the world’s major ecosystem types and free and the continued preservation of our history that is devoted to conservation of nature and and lands.  genetic material. Judy Newman is a business reporter for the Wiscon- sin State Journal newspaper in Madison, Wis. 54 ON COMMON GROUND
  • 55. From California to the New York Island …. Of the total 2.27 billion acres of land that make up The U.S. has 155 national forests that make up a the mountains and valleys, the cities and country- total of 188 million acres. Of those, 101 national sides of the United States, the federal government forests, encompassing 141.3 million acres, are in owns nearly 672 million acres, or 29.6 percent of the the western region, from the Dakotas and Nebraska land. By far, the majority of federally owned lands to California (not including Texas or Oklahoma). are in the western states. These are the states with Alaska has two national forests, totaling just less than the largest, at least 30 percent, and smallest, under 22 million acres. 2 percent, amounts of federally owned lands. State Total land Owned by Percentage (1,000 acres) federal gov’t (1,000 acres) United States 2,271,343 671,759 29.6 Nevada 70,264 64,589 91.9 Alaska 365,482 243,847 66.7 Utah 52,697 35,025 66.5 Idaho 52,933 35,136 66.4 Wyoming 62,343 31,532 50.6 Arizona 72,688 36,495 50.2 Oregon 61,599 30,639 49.7 California 100,207 46,980 46.9 Colorado 66,486 23,174 34.9 New Mexico 77,766 26,518 34.1 Montana 93,271 29,239 31.3 Washington 42,694 13,247 31.0 Connecticut 3,135 15 0.5 Iowa 35,860 303 0.8 Maine 19,848 164 0.8 New York 30,681 242 0.8 Rhode Island 677 5 0.8 Kansas 52,511 642 1.2 Ohio 26,222 458 1.7 Illinois 35,795 652 1.8 National Park Service Texas 168,218 3,172 1.9 Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2006 WINTER 2009 55
  • 56. “B o o m ©National Park Service ” The Conservation B E T T E R C O N S E R VAT I O N O P P O R T U N I T I E S EMERGE FROM LOWER LAND PRICES Florida Everglades By Steve Wright I f every gray cloud has a silver lining, then perhaps Developers, many who overpaid for properties during every brown chunk of dirt has a green lining. the peak of the housing boom and are faced with a The “green” movement — gaining momentum shortage of both financing and buyers, are covering their each day as we learn to protect our forests, conserve losses by selling their land for conservation. our water sources and preserve healthy green space Keith Fountain, director of land acquisition for The in urban, suburban and rural settings — is reaping Nature Conservancy’s Florida office, said the marked the benefits of lower land prices. drop in land prices means “opportunities for conservation are unprecedented.” 56 ON COMMON GROUND WINTER 2009
  • 57. The suite of top priority land coming to us is absolutely unprecedented. The distinctive landscape of the Everglades can be seen for miles throughout southern Florida. ©National Park Service “Back in the real estate boom, people were speculating on Central Florida ranch-type land — buying to sell six months later at a 30 percent profit. But when the music stopped playing, they couldn’t find a chair. They don’t have the resources to carry the land, so now they need to sell.” Fountain said not only are prices more attractive, but the availability of sensitive land is at an all-time high. The Nature Conservancy and others have worked for years on the Kissimmee Basin, a part of Central Florida that serves as the headwaters for Lake Okeechobee. Okeechobee feeds the Everglades and also provides the drinking water for heavily populated South Florida. “We’ve been working with farmers to get conservation easements,” Fountain said. “In the boom, we couldn’t get ranchers to talk to us. Now, they are talking. They are looking at straight easement sales.” Fountain said he’s now pursuing lands that various agencies worked on years ago, but were rebuffed by unwilling sellers. “The suite of top priority land coming to us is abso- lutely unprecedented,” he said. “Our phone rings off the ©2006 Bass Online, Inc. hook with people wanting to sell us tracts.” 57
  • 58. For developers, buyers will pay a premium for communities with conservation — green sells and is sustainable. “This allows us to focus on some real jewels,” Fountain ©2006 continued. “The availability of large tracks that tie very important areas together is amazing, and in some cases, the last piece of the puzzle needed to assemble hundreds of contiguous acres of conserved lands.” Tampa-based Bill Eshenbaugh, 2003 Land REALTOR® of America, said land conservation sales are good for the green environment and — as an option in time of stagnant sales — can lead to a pot of gold. “It pays as a broker to sell the preservation interests and they historically can be more active in a slow market, as they can buy without the price pressure from developers,” said Eshenbaugh. “For developers, buyers will pay a premium for communities with conservation — green sells and is sustainable.” Eshenbaugh, an avid outdoorsman who goes by the ap- ropos moniker of The Dirt Dog, said lower land prices As one of the largest freshwater lakes in the United States, Lake Okeechobee is an important natural resource to Southern Florida can also create opportunities for elected officials to make and the Everglades. more political hay. ©In Cherl Kim “For politicians, it creates good will with the public and it leaves a heritage. Think about the Teddy Roosevelt influence on western parks along with the Rockefellers and Yellowstone, Grand Teton National, etc. — where the great open spaces have been preserved and the views of the Tetons maintained.” “Here, [former Florida Governor] Jeb Bush did a great job of acquiring a lot of land including a major part of Babcock Ranch,” he said, referring to the state’s $350 million purchase of 74,000 acres, of a 92,000-acre ranch in southwest Florida’s Lee County. The largest tract of contiguous conservation lands in the state’s history, it will protect endangered species, provide a 58 ON COMMON GROUND
  • 59. water recharge area and ultimately, a wealth of outdoor recreational opportunities. “Gov. [Charlie] Crist could leave a tremendous heritage if he acquires the sugar lands as planned,” Eshenbaugh said about the current Florida governor’s proposal for the state to buy thousands of acres presently farmed for sugar cane — to convert them into reservoirs and other uses needed to support the multibillion dollar Everglades restoration project. (For more information on land conservation to save the Everglades, see the State Governments Take Lead article on page 12.) Asked if rising food prices have increased the value of farmland enough to offset its drop in value as developable land, Eshenbaugh said, “I don’t see any evidence here in Florida that that has happened.” “However, higher corn prices probably do impact the cost of fattening out Florida beef in the Midwest feedlots. The cost of fertilizer has gone up dramatically along with diesel fuel that impacts all agricultural production from tractors to trucks to deliver to markets to diesel-driven irrigation pumps,” Eshenbaugh observed, suggesting that many farmers remain land rich but cash poor. Several nonprofit land conservancy trust executives also stressed that not every parcel of farmland is a plot prized for preservation. Rather than shopping for pure open space, many trusts are focusing in on coastal, forest, ravine, mountain and endangered species habitat land ©National Park Service — much of which may not be suitable for agriculture, meaning it is more affected by the drop in development value than any nationwide gain in farmland value. Conservation agencies tell me “My Midwest farm broker friends tell me the price of corn they are swamped with calls and grain crop land is indeed up. It is a yield issue — when corn prices are higher and farmers can make more money, and submissions of land. the price of high-quality, high-yield land has gone up,” Eshenbaugh said. “[But conservation] agencies tell me they The Trust for Public Land (TPL), one of the nation’s are swamped with calls and submissions of land that the largest nonprofit land conservation organizations that pro- current owners feel would make good conservation deals as tects parks, historic sites, rural lands and other natural ar- the market has dramatically slowed for development.” eas, is reporting several lowered land price success stories. WINTER 2009 59
  • 60. Tim Ahern, TPL’s director of media relations, said a that stretches from the Gulf of Mexico to the Intracoastal flagging housing market has given rise to: Waterway in the small town of Indian Shores in the • TPL’s deal to buy a 70-acre former Camp Fire Girls Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg area. But the present day park northeast of St. Paul, Minn. for $3.8 million. The market value is less than half of what developers paid Minnesota Council of Camp Fire USA decided to sell for it in 2005. TPL is working to buy the southern two the land two years ago and had it under contract with a acres of the parcel for a local park. With a fair market developer for nearly $5 million. But when the real estate value shrunken to about $6 million, TPL is working market softened, the Council decided to accept a little with town, county and state officials to make the land less than 80 cents on the dollar. The action will perma- preservation deal happen. nently preserve Camp Ojiketa, once slated for housing, Rodney Bartgis, state director of The Nature Conser- as open space. vancy in West Virginia, said the price of protecting land • The $4 million purchase of a 27-acre parcel in suburban is more complex than a simple downswing in real estate Portland, Ore. to be added to an existing city park. A development. developer had planned to build 65 homes selling in the “Those [good land deals for conservation] mostly apply price range of $300,000 to $375,000 on the property. to the many areas where real estate development, espe- But when the housing market fell, the developer decided cially housing, is the principle driver of land values,” he to sell and TPL stepped in with a $1.6 million loan to said. “But at least here in the Central Appalachians, it help preserve the green space until several government often does not apply to tracts of large, raw land acreages agencies could pool funds to close on the deal. — the type that is often of most interest to The Nature • Ongoing negotiations to buy beachfront land on the Conservancy and similar groups.” Gulf Coast of Florida that once was destined to be a Bartgis said domestic and foreign investment in tim- $120-million condo project. Atlantis West Development berland is keeping prices up for large, forested tracts in Company paid $28 million for four acres of prime land prime timber production areas. The Appalachian National Scenic Trail stretches over 14 different states from Maine down to Georgia, and is largely maintained by volunteers who patrol and monitor the footpath to ensure the land is preserved. 60 ON COMMON GROUND
  • 61. Land used for energy resources also is impacting conservation in ways that weren’t a factor until the huge upward spiral in energy costs. ©National Park Service “We were attempting to acquire a 1,300-acre timber company holding this spring and were unsuccessful because we could not compete against an investment group willing to pay a price well above that previ- ously established in the local market,” he said. “So even though timber prices are down — because of less de- mand due to the housing downturn — and local lumber mills are struggling, some investors can take a 20-plus- year view of timber and are still willing to pay fairly well for the land.” Bartgis said land used for energy resources also is im- pacting conservation in ways that weren’t a factor until the huge upward spiral in energy costs. “On mountain tops — until recently, of value primarily for recreation and maybe timber — there is widespread leasing of land for industrial wind facilities, often at a fairly good price,” he said. “Throughout much of West Virginia, there is widespread leasing of natural gas as companies hope to tap into the Marcellus Shale, a deep source of gas not previously exploited because of the costs and technical hurdles. But with energy prices up, the Marcellus is a hot item.” “This is land whose lease fee value otherwise would be $1,500 per acre, or even less, being [driven up] to maybe $4,000 per acre,” Bartgis continued. “So energy demand and inflation are keeping the values of much Central Ap- palachian land up. Even where the energy resources are speculative, these events are keeping land prices up because they have substantially raised landowner expectations.” WINTER 2009 61
  • 62. Tim Glidden, director of the state agency Land for Development slowdown gives Maine’s Future, said “it’s not yet clear how the credit crisis and massive slowdown in residential real estate” state government a breather, will affect land conservation opportunities. so it can better plan for “State conservation strategies are focused on conserving the ‘best of the best’ and high-end real estate on Maine’s conversation and development. spectacular coast and lakes continues to command pre- mium prices,” he noted. “While inventory is growing “The need to be strategic in taking advantage of any in these categories, we are not seeing big price declines. opportunities is imperative,” he said. “Some land that On the other hand, local land trusts looking to conserve might be now available should be held as inventory for open space in and around urban centers are seeing op- future housing and commercial development — these portunities as developers seek to reduce their exposure communities will still need to grow. The opportunity is and inventory of subdivision land.” to shape, not block, that needed growth.”  Glidden said development slowdown gives state govern- Wright frequently writes about Smart Growth and sustainable communities. He and his wife live in a ment a breather, so it can step back from the breakneck restored historic home in the heart of Miami’s Little pace and better plan for conversation and development. Havana. Contact him at: Maine’s coastal areas 62 ON COMMON GROUND
  • 63. Lower Land Prices Boost Attractiveness of Conservation Easement Sales The sluggish real estate market also is motivating more Agriculture and landowners to set aside a large chunk of their land for development conservation. When they put their land in a perpetual have been destroying conservation easement, they can deduct the fair market Florida’s natural value of their donated land from their federal taxes. landscape and wildlife habitat, The IRS currently allows conservation easement donors but there is hope to take a deduction up to 50 percent of their adjusted to preserve the gross income each year, with a 16-year time period to remaining land with the help deduct the total value of the land. Some states also are of conservation offering tax breaks in return for donated perpetual con- easements. servation easements. Landowners do not have to donate their entire property and they can continue to live on and farm their land. Ba- sically, they are donating a portion — say 80 percent of 200 acres — that will have restrictions that run with the land preventing it from being subdivided and developed. In some areas, developers are awarded density bonuses for building on only a fraction of their property if they In times of economic slowdowns donate the rest for an easement that preserves it perma- conservation easements help nently for agriculture, recreation, hunting, wetlands, nature preservation, etc. The family, or an heir, can stretch the public dollar. sell the entire parcel, but the next owner knows that the lion’s share of the acreage is forever preserved from look at the rural land while protecting the private prop- development. erty rights of the land owner. Conservation easements Lakeland, Fla. REALTOR® Dean Saunders, an expert in are a great way to go. A lot of farmers don’t want to sell, representing landowners of both agriculture and conser- so they can keep the land, but appreciate some of the vation lands, helped create conservation legislation when increased value.” he served in the Florida House of Representatives. Failed developments may be creating some good op- In July 2008, he completed a 3,000-acre conservation portunities to buy land for conservation in populated easement between a family and its private trust and the areas, but Saunders said “I have not seen panicked, fire United States Department of Agriculture. The land, sale prices on land.” which is located just south of Lake Wales in Polk County, Saunders said in times of economic slowdowns, when Fla., would flood seasonally and will now be part of the state revenue collections can drop by billions, conserva- Wetlands Reserve Program to store water or re-hydrate tion easements help stretch the public dollar. what was once wetland. “Government can’t afford to buy a whole ranch outright Saunders is proud of his record of conserving land in every time. But it can afford to pay for an easement,’’ he Florida, and he also is a staunch advocate for private observed. “Another good thing with easements is that property owners’ rights. government doesn’t pay to maintain it, the private prop- “If the public likes looking at it, then the public should erty owner does. And private landowners always manage pay for it. That way you protect the public’s desire to property better than the government.”  WINTER 2009 63
  • 64. REALTORS Take Action ® Making Smart Growth Happen It’s all about Green. Saving it and making it. The Sacramento Association of REALTORS® (SAR) Wagner. “It’s our job to do what we can to help save on goes by that creed and so does the Sacramento costs and to help save the environment.” Municipal Utility District (SMUD). The groups recently collaborated on the “Change a The groups are developing what’s turned out to be a Light, Change the World” Program, which not only symbiotic relationship that has assisted SMUD in its helped lower utility costs for homeowners and kilowatt efforts to reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions usage for SMUD, but the initiative also helped generate as well as helped REALTOR® members think green so money for a SAR scholarship fund that assists deserving that homebuyers can save on utility costs. Sacramento area high school students. Ed Hamzawi, the SMUD supervisor of energy efficiency The Sacramento Municipality Utility District provided programs, welcomes the blossoming relationship with the mini compact fluorescent bulbs at deep discounts to Sacramento Association of REALTORS® in recent years. SAR, which passed on those discounts and sold them Hamzawi views REALTORS® as the foot soldiers in at their SAR retail stores for just $2 a box. Last year the California’s battle to become more energy efficient. sales earned SAR — which is celebrating its centennial Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an executive birthday — $6,460 for the scholarship fund. order that beginning in 2010 requires California to “It was over the top,” SAR Director of Retail Operations reduce its greenhouse gas emission to year 2000 lev- Carl Carlson said of light bulb sales. “We had no idea it els. Under the executive order emission levels must be was going to be that good.” reduced to 1990 levels by the year 2020 and to below 1990 levels by the year 2050. “We are coming to the realization that there is no way we can accomplish these goals alone” said Hamzawi, who said REALTORS® are quickly emerging as a “group that SMUD can do a lot more with.” That’s music to the ears of SAR President Alan Wagner, who said the greening of his members can only help homebuyers and build good will for REALTORS® in the community. “We know housing has gone up,” said 64 ON COMMON GROUND WINTER 2009
  • 65. REALTORS® can use the bulbs as either closing gifts Carlson also intends to have on display at his retail or hand them out at community events they attend. stores solar panels provided by SMUD. Solar panels The boxes are branded with both the SMUD and — along with other energy efficient features such as REALTOR® logos, as well as Olsen & Fielding, the a 14 SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) HVAC local Mayflower moving company that helped offset system; and Energy Star windows can help reduce the the costs of the bulbs. electric bill in Sacramento by upward of 60 percent. The program has been so successful that in 2009 SMUD’s sister agency — the Sacramento Tree Foun- SAR members will have access to deep discounts on dation — is another green partner with SAR. That a variety of CFL bulbs, including ones designed for collaboration, where REALTORS® are encouraged decorative light fixtures in bathroom vanities as well to have homeowners contact the association to see if as floodlights and spotlights, said Carlson. they can receive free trees, is five years old and still Carlson also plans in 2009 to have available at retail going strong. stores hot water heater blankets that are branded with “There is a lot of creativity here,” said Nelson James, the SAR logo as well as PG&E, the investor-owned the executive director of the Sacramento Association utility company. The blankets, which insulate hot of REALTORS®. “People are not afraid to come up water heaters, can save homeowners upward of $160 with ideas and enjoy themselves, and in doing so, annually on their utility bills. make our area greener.” 65
  • 66. REALTORS Take Action ® Making Smart Growth Happen Listed as Smart Growth Built. Things like square footage, the number of bathrooms and bedrooms, and local area schools are standard information included in Multiple Listing Services databases that REALTORS® rely upon daily to help sell and buy homes. After more than a year of work, REALTORS® in Asheville, N.C. will this winter be able to quickly identify other features in a home, including whether it’s green and whether it’s built with Smart Growth principles in mind. “It expands the options buyers can search for,” said Michael Figura, chair of the Asheville Board of REALTORS® (ABR) committee that came up with the list of green features that are included in the MLS listings. Figura worked with landscape architects, engineers and contractors, among others, in defining that there is a demand for green buildings in Asheville, the elements of green that will be featured in the MLS. a town that in the last several years has been named as They met more than a dozen times before agreeing to one of “The 50 Most Alive Places to Be” by Modern what should be included as “green.” Maturity magazine, and has cracked Forbes list of the top metro areas for business and careers, ranking No. With such a variety of expertise at the table the result 23 in the nation. was a far-reaching definition of green that includes everything from the use of 5-star energy rated appli- With all the accolades and recognition, it’s no surprise ances and zero VOC paint and primer to the use of re- that Asheville is one of the fastest growing areas in cycled materials and even solar panels. Smart Growth Western Carolina. ABR CEO David West said that principles such as ease of access to urban centers also care needs to be taken to ensure that the resulting are included in the MLS listings. growth is well planned and wisely built. “We are just putting it out there to allow people to If not for altruistic reasons, West said, REALTORS® check,” said Figura, who said including the informa- have a vested interest in ensuring that the growth is well tion in the MLS listings also lets homebuilders know planned with an emphasis on sustainable building. 66 ON COMMON GROUND
  • 67. “If we screw up the environment we don’t have any- environmental and building professionals who work in thing left to sell,” said David West. the field, such as architects, landscapers and engineers. With that in mind, West in 2005 worked with Margie The remaining elective courses can be taken for col- Meares, then executive director of the Asheville Clean lege credits or as courses taught by the Western North Air Community Trust, and others to develop the Carolina Green Building Council, among others. ECO Agent program — another green initiative the Correan Hamlin, director of education for ABR, said ABR embraced. that 75 REALTORS® have received their certification Before being certified as an ECO Agent, a REAL- to date and another 225 or so are in the queue to com- TOR® must take 36 hours of course work, including plete the required course work. two core classes the ABR requires. One course focuses Surprisingly, said Hamlin, there is no “trend” among on issues that could impact the sale of a house, includ- REALTORS® taking the classes. Older, younger, men, ing information on soil, water, sediment and erosion women, new REALTORS® and long time agents have issues as well as information on tax credits buyers can all signed up for the course. receive for the use of alternative energy systems. “The truth of the matter is, I see men and women of The other course is a two-day program that offers in- all ages (in the classes),” said Hamlin. “It’s had a pretty depth information about the environmental issues inside wide appeal.” and outside of a home. That program is taught by area WINTER 2009 67
  • 68. REALTORS® & Smart Growth on common ground