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 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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Smart Growth: On Common Ground: Winter09

  1. 1. REALTORS® & Smart Growth on common ground WINTER 2009 Voters Say Yes to Conservation Farmland Protection State Governments Take the Lead land conservation
  2. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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